WASHINGTON — Record numbers of U.S. households struggled at times to feed their families last year, according to a report Wednesday from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on the state of hunger in America.
A lack of resources forced others to cut back on meals and disrupt their usual eating patterns, it says.
A record 17.9 million U.S. households — 700,000 more than in 2010 — didn't have enough food at all times last year to sustain active, healthy lives for all family members, according to the USDA.
This "food insecurity" affected a record 14.9 percent of U.S. households and more than 50 million people, about one in six U.S. residents.
Moreover, more than one in three "food insecure" households — 6.8 million — had "very low food security," meaning that one or more family members cut back on eating last year because of a lack of either money or other access to food, according to the report.
That's an increase of 400,000 households over 2010.
After falling to 5.4 percent in 2010, the percentage of households with very low food security jumped to 5.7 percent last year, matching the record levels in 2008 and 2009 at the height of the economic collapse, the USDA reported.
The effect on children was significant. Nearly 9 million children lived in food-insecure households last year, and 845,000 were in households with very low food security.
"These numbers show the impact of the recession has not gone away yet," said Jim Weill, the president of the Food Research and Action Center, a nonprofit anti-hunger group. "It's one thing to say that wages are flat. But it's something else to say that people aren't getting enough to eat."
The findings in the annual USDA survey, "Household Food Security in the United States in 2011," show that hunger is one of the most persistent and widespread after effects of the Great Recession, which claimed 8.7 million U.S. jobs.
While 85 percent of households have adequate access to food, the report says, soup kitchens and food banks across the nation have seen dramatic increases in requests for assistance.