Nearly One in Five Americans Report Inability to Afford Enough Food

February 27, 2012

FRAC Releases 2011 Food Hardship Data, with Rates for the Nation, Regions, States, 100 Large Metropolitan Areas, and Every Congressional District

Contact: Jennifer Adach, 202-986-2200 x3018

Washington, D.C. – February 27, 2012 – New food hardship data from the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) show continuing struggles with hunger for millions throughout 2011, as nearly one in five Americans said there were times they didn’t have enough money to buy food that they or their families needed.

FRAC’s food hardship report (pdf) analyzes data that were collected by Gallup and provided to FRAC. The data were gathered as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index project, which has been interviewing almost 1,000 households daily since January 2008. FRAC has analyzed responses to the question: “Have there been times in the past twelve months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?” The report contains data throughout 2011 for every state, region, congressional district, and 100 of the country’s largest metropolitan areas (MSA). Gallup asked the question of 352,789 households in 2011.

Nationally, 18.6 percent of respondents reported food hardship in 2011, an increase from the 2010 level of 18 percent and the highest annual rate in the four years that FRAC has been tracking these data. Food hardship reached every part of the country:

  1. Mississippi has the worst rate among states, with one in four households (24.5 percent) reporting food hardship, but 30 states have more than one in six households answering “yes” and the “best” state, North Dakota, still had one in ten households struggling with food hardship.
  2. While California is home to two of the worst MSAs (Fresno and Bakersfield), 96 of the 100 largest MSAs had at least one in eight households reporting food hardship in 2011.
  3. The five worst congressional districts are in Arizona, California, Florida, New York, and Texas, but 384 congressional districts had at least one in eight households reporting food hardship.
  4. Regionally, the hardest hit were the Southeast and Southwest regions. Every region except for the Mountain Plains had higher food hardship rates in 2011 than in 2010.

“Rising food prices, continuing high unemployment and underemployment, and flat food stamp benefit allotments all contributed to the high food hardship rate in 2011,” said FRAC President Jim Weill. “Particularly challenging was the increase in food inflation, especially for the foods the government uses to construct the Thrifty Food Plan, its cheapest diet. Food stamp beneficiaries lost more than six percent of their food purchasing power because of this increase.”

To read the full report, please visit