Every year, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) releases a report on food security in America. Food security is a technical term to describe households that are stressed financially, such that there is uncertainty as to whether all household members will not go hungry. Very low food security, formerly called “hunger” means that at least one household member goes hungry at times because there isn’t enough money to buy food.
The latest numbers, based on data from 2012, find that little has changed: 1 in 6 Americans struggle with hunger. Nationally, the rate for hunger or very low food security is 5.7%, but here in Washington, hunger continues to outpace the national rate as 6.1% of Washington residents are hungry. Additionally, Washington’s rates for food insecurity and hunger are also higher than those of our neighboring states, Oregon and Idaho.
Washington ranks 15th among the hungriest states in America. This is a very slight improvement over our ranking last year when we were the 14th hungriest state, but there is little to celebrate. The slight bump is a sign of the small improvements to our economy. Those on the cusp of poverty have been able to do well enough to avoid the pitfall of hunger, but for those families among us who are most vulnerable, there has been little relief.
To make real strides in reducing hunger, we need to strengthen our economy with jobs and support for the programs that help struggling families work their way out of poverty.
For more information about the USDA household food security numbers and the rate of food security and hunger in Washington, please check out Hungry in Washington 2013, the annual report from the Children’s Alliance.