USDA Survey: 'Food Insecurity' Lingers, Even as Jobs Improve

Thursday, 04 Sep 2014 11:59 AM

By John Blosser

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Some 14.3 percent of American households' access to good nutrition is caught between improved employment and food price inflation, and remains basically unchanged over the past year.

A survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture has found that 49 million Americans were "food insecure" for at least part of 2013, only 0.3 percent better than the results of a 2012 study, the Daily Signal reports.

That doesn't mean that Americans are starving — the USDA defines "food insecurity" as "uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food to meet the needs of all their members because they had insufficient money or other resources for food," but the report notes that there were "few, if any, indicators of reduced food intake" among those surveyed.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the survey found, "For most food-insecure households, the inadequacies were in the form of reduced quality and variety rather than insufficient quantity."

Fewer than 5 percent of adults said they could not afford enough to eat, and among children, that number plunged to 1.3 percent.

While the number of food stamp recipients under the government's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) rose from 26 million to nearly 47 million between 2007 and 2013, the Journal reports, in 2007, the number of people experiencing "food insecurity" was only 11.1 percent.

The USDA's Alisha Coleman-Jensen, one of the authors of the report, noted, "Given improvements in employment and other economic indicators, some have wondered why food security has been slow to improve. We found that while unemployment declined in 2012 and 2013, inflation and the price of food relative to other goods and services continued to increase. These increases offset improvements in food security that might have resulted from the decline in unemployment."

NPR noted that the report showed a large decline in the number of children in families suffering "very low food insecurity" to 360,000 in 2013, down from 463,000 in 2012.

Single-parent and minority households suffered more "food insecurity" than others, Reuters reported, while 6.8 million households had "very low food security" in 2013.

The USDA said in 2013 that SNAP would "increase food security by providing low-income households access to food, a healthful diet, and nutrition education," the Journal notes, but SNAP seems to have made little difference in the numbers suffering "food insecurity."

Last year, Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., put forth the SNAP Transparency Act amendment to require the USDA to report on just what items are purchased with SNAP benefits, commenting, "What was initially intended to be a supplemental resource to give low-income families access to nutritious and healthy food, has been greatly expanded into a massive program with a high potential for fraud and abuse."

The amendment failed to pass.

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