Food insecurity, for decades the bane of developing countries, has, post-recession, assumed worrisome proportions in the world's most powerful nation — the United States.
In a scathing report — Household Food Security in the U.S., 2009 — the U.S. Department of Agriculture revealed that 14.7 per cent of American households faced food insecurity some time during 2009, including 5.7 per cent with very low food security.
The report further said in households with “severe range of food insecurity”, food intake of its members dropped and eating patterns “were disrupted at times during the year”.
While the latest figures for food insecurity and very low food security showed only a slight increase from their 2008 levels of 14.6 per cent and 5.7 per cent respectively, they, nonetheless, hover at the highest recorded levels since 1995, when the first national food security survey was conducted.
Highlighting the significant inequalities in food resource availability across U.S. households, the USDA report noted that the typical food-secure household spent a whopping 33 per cent more on food than the typical food-insecure household of the same size and household composition.
Also, indicating a racial divide in food security, the report found the rates of food insecurity among African-American and Hispanic households were substantially higher than the national average. Further, such insecurity was higher among households with incomes near or below the federal poverty line and among households with children headed by single parents, the report said. The USDA report was based on data from an annual survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau as a supplement to its monthly Current Population Survey.
The USDA said the 2009 food security survey covered about 46,000 households and it asked one adult respondent in each household a series of questions about experiences and behaviours 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 food security status of the household was assigned based on the number of food-insecure conditions reported.