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Food Insecurity
Food Insecurity in United States
United States

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Food Insecurity in depth:

Food Insecurity by State

Percentage of households unable to provide adequate food for one or more household members due to lack of resources

Food Insecurity Trends

Percentage of households unable to provide adequate food for one or more household members due to lack of resources

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Food Insecurity

About Food Insecurity

US Value: 10.4%

Top State(s): New Hampshire: 5.4%

Bottom State(s): Mississippi: 15.3%

Definition: Percentage of households unable to provide adequate food for one or more household members due to lack of resources

Data Source and Years: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Household Food Security in the United States Report, 2019-2021

Suggested Citation: America's Health Rankings analysis of U.S. Department of Agriculture, Household Food Security in the United States Report, United Health Foundation,, accessed 2023.

Food insecurity is an economic and social condition where one’s regular access to food is limited or uncertain. It differs from hunger in that hunger is a physiological feeling. Food insecurity is a complex problem and does not exist in isolation for low-income families. Many food-insecure families also struggle with issues like disadvantages resulting from structural racism, lack of affordable housing, high medical costs and low wages. The COVID-19 pandemic has also exacerbated food insecurity. 

Food insecurity has broad effects on health due to the mental and physical stress it places on the body. Children are particularly susceptible to the negative impacts of food insecurity because their brains and bodies are still developing. Among children, food insecurity is associated with anemia, asthma, depression and anxiety, cognitive and behavioral problems and a higher risk of being hospitalized.

Health-related costs attributed to hunger were conservatively estimated at $160 billion nationally in 2014. Adding in lost economic productivity, education costs (such as special education support and costs of school dropout) and charity to combat hunger brings the total to $178.9 billion. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found that food insecure adults had annual health care expenditures $1,834 higher than food secure adults.

The prevalence of food insecurity is higher among:

  • Non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic households, in which the prevalence of food insecurity is more than 2 times higher than in non-Hispanic white households. 
  • Lower-income households (i.e., those below 185% of the poverty threshold) compared with higher-income households. 
  • Households with children, particularly children ages 0-5, compared with households without children.
  • Households headed by a single adult, particularly a single woman, compared with households with multiple adults.

Programs that have been effective at reducing food insecurity by providing either cash or food assistance to those in need include:

In 2021, the American Rescue Plan temporarily expanded the Child Tax Credit, resulting in direct payments of $250-$300 per month to families who qualified. Research indicates that the initial payments from this tax credit reduced food insufficiency among low-income households with children.

Healthy People 2030 has an objective to reduce household food insecurity and hunger.

Berkowitz, Seth A., Sanjay Basu, Craig Gundersen, and Hilary K. Seligman. 2019. “State-Level and County-Level Estimates of Health Care Costs Associated with Food Insecurity.” Preventing Chronic Disease 16 (July): 180549.

Ettinger de Cuba, Stephanie, Mariana Chilton, Allison Bovell-Ammon, Molly Knowles, Sharon M. Coleman, Maureen M. Black, John T. Cook, et al. 2019. “Loss Of SNAP Is Associated With Food Insecurity And Poor Health In Working Families With Young Children.” Health Affairs 38 (5): 765–73.

Gundersen, Craig, Adam Dewey, Amy S. Crumbaugh, Michael Kato, Emily Engelhard, Brian Odeen, Mitch Kriss, and Patricia Ratulangi. 2018. “Map the Meal Gap 2018: A Report on County and Congressional District Food Insecurity and County Food Cost in the United States in 2016.” Chicago, IL: Feeding America.

Gundersen, Craig, and James P. Ziliak. 2015. “Food Insecurity and Health Outcomes.” Health Affairs 34 (11): 1830–39.

Hake, Monica, Adam Dewey, Emily Engelhard, Mark Strayer, Sena Dawes, Tom Summerfelt, and Craig Gundersen. 2021. “The Impact of the Coronavirus on Food Insecurity in 2020 & 2021.” Chicago, IL: Feeding America.

Parolin, Zachary, Elizabeth Ananat, Sophie M. Collyer, Megan Curran, and Christopher Wimer. 2021. “The Initial Effects of the Expanded Child Tax Credit on Material Hardship.” Working Paper. Working Paper Series. National Bureau of Economic Research.

“The Nourishing Effect: Ending Hunger, Improving Health, Reducing Inequality (2016 Hunger Report).” 2015. Washington, D.C.: Bread for the World Institute.

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