food collectionHow big is the problem of hunger?

In 2018, 37.2 million people, representing 11.1 percent / 14.3 million of all U.S. households were food insecure at some point, with the prevalence of food insecurity varying among household types/ the rate of food insecurity scoring higher than the national average for the following groups:*

  • All households with children (13.9 percent),
  • Households with children under age 6 (14.3 percent),
  • Households with children headed by a single woman (27.8 percent),
  • Households with children headed by a single man (15.9 percent),
  • Women living alone (14.2 percent),
  • Men living alone (12.5 percent),
  • Black, non-Hispanic households (21.2 percent),
  • Hispanic households (16.2 percent), and
  • Low-income households with incomes below 185 percent of the poverty threshold (29.1 percent; the Federal poverty line was $25,465 for a family of four in 2018).*

*Source: United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service

Feeding America’s ‘Map the Meal Gap’ project reveals the ways in which variations in food prices across the country have significant impact on the income point at which a family or individual might find themselves at a budget shortfall for food spending. 2017 data shows a food insecurity rate of 9.1 percent in Massachusetts overall with child hunger varying across the state and averaging 11.7 percent.

For many, food pantries, soup kitchens and community meals/ cafes are now a standard part of a daily and monthly strategy to try and make ends meet. In 2018, 6+ million pounds of donated food was distributed by the Worcester County Food Bank alone —  enough for 5,100,000 meals, with 75,000 people receiving food assistance. 

The impacts of hunger:

When someone doesn’t get enough food to get them through the day, their whole life is affected. Children who are chronically hungry struggle to grow physically and mentally, and often have trouble paying attention in school. Adults who experienced chronic food insecurity as a child are often not as prepared to compete in the workforce and may find it difficult to overcome intellectual and emotional impairments caused by these experiences.

Sometimes the effects of hunger insecurity are the opposite of what one might think; as lack of access to full service grocery stores where prices are less and items like fresh vegetables and fruit are more available, “feast or famine” eating behaviors and stress-induced eating behaviors can all contribute to a co-existence of food insecurity and obesity.

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