The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

New USDA Data: 38 Million Americans (9 Percent More than 2019) Suffered from Food Insecurity in 2020

First Complete Government Calculation of 2020 Hunger Surge

12 Million U.S. Children Were Food Insecure, also a 9-Percent Increase

Spending on USDA Domestic Food Aid Reached Historic High in 2020

Advocates: “Boost in Federal Safety Net the Top Reason that Mass Food Hardships Didn’t Turn into Mass Starvation”

Safety Net Was a “Giant Food Life Preserver”


Thirty-eight million Americans struggled against hunger one or more times in 2020, a nine-percent increase over the 2019 level of 35 million, according to data released today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

This is the first complete federal data to formally document the full extent of hunger and food hardship, also known as "food insecurity," during the first year of the pandemic. The number of U.S. children suffering from food insecurity also soared to 12 million in 2020, compared to 11 million in 2019, also a nine-percent increase.

Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, the federal government has also used a different methodology, the Household Pulse Survey, to study how many Americans don't have enough food over seven-day periods of time. That methodology has proven that the number of Americans facing food hardship declined when the federal government increased food and cash assistance to struggling families by significant amounts at varied times in the last year and a half.

A different USDA report just found: "Spending on USDA's domestic food and nutrition assistance programs in Fiscal Year 2020 reached a historical high of $122.1 billion."

In response to these findings, Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, a nationwide direct service and advocacy organization, released the following statement:

"The new federal data tells us two things. First, while hunger was already a massive, systemic problem in all 50 states before COVID-19 hit the U.S., domestic hunger surged during the pandemic. Second, while tens of million of Americans suffered mightily from food hardship in 2020 - and are still suffering mightily - the nation avoided mass starvation mostly because the federal government stepped in to dramatically increase food and cash aid. This safety net was a giant food life preserver. Given that the pandemic is far from over, we need that aid to continue, as a down payment on the even bigger investments needed to create jobs, raise wages, and ensure an adequate safety net so we can finally end hunger in America once and for all."

Hunger Free America is a nonpartisan, national nonprofit group working to enact the policies and programs needed to end domestic hunger and ensure that all Americans have sufficient access to nutritious food.

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