EINNEWS, November 16—The current economic crisis was given a new dimension today with the release of a government report estimating that 15 percent of all U.S. households, and 21 percent of households with children, had trouble putting food on the table in 2009.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture survey found that the number of “food insecure” homes has tripled since 2006, when the economic downturn began. A food insecure home is defined as one that had difficulty feeding itself sometime during the year.

The report comes as Congress is about to consider reauthorization of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which pays for the USDA’s child nutrition programs.

The problem of food security is particularly acute in homes with children and in homes with black and Hispanic families.

While the overall national percentage of food insecure households is estimated at 17 million (15 percent of all households), in households with children headed by single mothers, that percentage is 36.6 percent. In households with children headed by single men it’s 27.8 percent. The estimate in Hispanic households is 26.9 percent and black households 24.9 percent.

Typically, households classified as having very low food security experienced the condition in 7 months of the year.

The 2009 food security survey covered about 46,000 households comprising a representative sample of the U.S. civilian population of 118 million households. The food security survey asked one adult respondent in each household a series of questions about experiences and behaviors that indicate food insecurity, such as being unable, at times, to afford balanced meals, cutting the size of meals
because of too little money for food, or being hungry because of too little money for food.

The report also updates national statistics on food security, household food spending, the use of federal and community food and nutrition assistance by food-insecure households, and the numbers of households using community food pantries and emergency kitchens.

The number of food-insecure households in 2009 was comparable to those in 2008. The USDA attributes that to successful outreach and enrollment of 57 percent of these families into one or more of the USDA’s food programs. One in four households have at least one family member participating in a USDA feeding program, up from one in five two years ago.

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