* Emergency food pantry use up sharply in recent years
* Food stamps used by 15 million families a month in 2009
By Jerry Norton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of U.S.
households that reported getting emergency food from a food
pantry almost doubled between 2007 and 2009, at the height of
the recession, a government report said on Monday.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the number of
households jumped to 5.6 from 3.9 million.
"Households also accessed additional assistance through
USDA's 15 food and nutrition assistance programs," the article
in the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) "Amber Waves"
The USDA oversees the government's food stamp program, also
known as SNAP or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,
for low-income families and other domestic feeding programs
like school lunches.
In the 2009 fiscal year, "15.2 million households
participated in SNAP in an average month, up from 12.7 million
in FY 2008," the article said.
In a separate report, the ERS said the percentage of U.S.
households without food security -- access to enough food for
an active, healthy life -- at some point during the year hit a
record in 2009.
It said more than 50 million people, including at least 17
million children, lived in households uncertain of having or
getting enough food at some point because of insufficient money
or other material resources.
The 14.7 percent of households without food security at
some time in 2009 was up from 14.6 percent in 2008 and 11.1 in
2007, and was the highest since data-keeping on the subject
began in 1995, according to the ERS report.
Some 9 percent of households had low food security, meaning
they relied on such strategies as "eating less varied diets,
participating in Federal food assistance programs," or getting
emergency food help.
About 6 percent had very low food security, meaning they
had the normal eating patterns of one or more members disrupted
and reduced at times during the year.
For about a quarter of food-insecure households and
one-third of those with very low food security, "the occurrence
was frequent or chronic," the ERS report said.
It said that among states, food insecurity ranged from a
6.7 percent level in North Dakota to a 17.7 percent high in
Arkansas, as measured over a three year period through 2009.
Very low food security ranged from North Dakota's 2.6 percent
to Alabama's 6.8 percent.
(Editing by Peter Bohan and Sandra Maler)
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