Nearly 11 Million Kids Face Food Insecurity as Statistic Dips to 20-Year Low
In the United States, the rate of food insecurity among kids has hit a 20-year low, per new data reported in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT® Data Center. From 2019–2021, 15% of kids — 10.6 million children total — lived in households that lacked the consistent ability to buy enough food.
Despite the statistic trending in the right direction, hunger is still a harsh reality for nearly 11 million children across the country.
American Families and Food Insecurity
Food insecurity among children peaked in 2011–2013. Since the peak it has dropped seven percentage points, reaching a low of 15% in 2019–2021.
Other findings related to food insecurity among kids and now available include:
- In October 2022, high food costs contributed to 28% of households going hungry nationwide. While this statistic has improved by seven percentage points since spring 2022, it means that more than 1 in 4 families is still struggling to put enough food on the table.
- In 11 states, the share of children that were not eating because food was not affordable hovered between 32% and 43%. Michigan had the highest rate.
- Examining this same statistic by race and ethnicity for households with kids: Only white families bested the national average, with high food costs contributing to hunger 21% of the time. By comparison, 38% of Black families, 37% of Latino and multi-race families and 31% of Asian families have reported facing food insecurity due to rising food costs.
Temporary Relief: The Expanded Child Tax Credit
In 2021, lawmakers significantly expanded the Child Tax Credit via the American Rescue Plan. This move — which lifted an additional 2.9 million kids out of poverty — saw families receive up to $3,600 per child under age 6 and $3,000 for each child between the ages of 6–17.
Since households of color are disproportionately more likely to experience economic instability, extending the expanded Child Tax Credit was viewed by many as a powerful and proven way to promote racially equitable outcomes among children and families nationwide. However, lawmakers let the expansion expire after one year, which means the credit will return to $2,000 per child in 2023.
The Toll of Hunger and Food Insecurity
Inadequate food and nutrition profoundly and negatively impact a child’s physical, mental and behavioral health and development. Food insecurity causes further stress and potential health issues for families as they often have to choose between paying for food or paying for other necessities such as housing, health care and utilities.
Feeding America, a leading nonprofit focused on hunger relief and research, has noted increased risk of food insecurity among populations of color. It reports the following:
- Hunger and food insecurity are consistently more common in some communities of color. For example, Black kids are almost three times as likely and Latino kids are nearly twice as likely to experience hunger when compared to their white peers.
- One in four (24%) families headed by single mothers were food insecure in 2021.
- While families in all areas face hunger, rural communities tend to have higher levels of hunger.
Feeding America, the Casey Foundation and others also note that food insecurity among populations of color stems from long-standing structural and systemic inequities in society, which contribute to broader economic insecurity for these populations and can negatively affect their health across generations.
Resources on Food Insecurity and Economic Instability in America Today
Learn more about food insecurity, whom it affects most, and possible solutions with resources from the Casey Foundation.
KIDS COUNT Data Center Resources
- Children living in food-insecure households
- Households with children not eating enough because food was unaffordable
- Households with children that lacked enough food to eat in the past week
- Households with children that sometimes or often did not have enough food to eat prior to the pandemic
- Adults ages 18–24 who sometimes or often did not have enough food to eat in the past week
- Adults ages 18–24 who sometimes or often did not have enough food to eat prior to the pandemic
- All family economic well-being measures
- 2022 KIDS COUNT Data Book
- Child Tax Credit Fuels a Substantial Reduction in Child Poverty
- Top Uses of 2021 Child Tax Credit Payments: Food, Utilities, Housing, Clothes
- America’s Food Deserts
- Child Poverty Resources
- Economic Opportunity Resources and Strategies