Hunger and poverty affect far too many Americans. Here are the latest numbers from USDA’s Household Food Security in the United States in 2018.

Hunger

More than 37.2 million Americans lived in households that struggled against hunger in 2018. The 2018 numbers were a decline from 2017, with the rate declining from 40 million.

The number of individuals in households that faced the deepest struggles with hunger – “very low food security” – was 4.3 percent (5.6 million) of U.S. households had very low food security at some time during 2018. Essentially unchanged from 4.5 percent in 2017.

Children were food insecure at times during 2018 in 7.1 percent of U.S. households with children (2.7 million households), not significantly different from 7.7 percent in 2017. These households with food insecurity among children were unable at times to provide adequate, nutritious food for their children.

Paradoxically, in rural areas that grow most of our nation’s food, households face considerably deeper struggles with hunger than those in metropolitan areas. 16.5% of rural households faced food insecurity in 2018, compared to 13.5% of households in metropolitan areas.

In 2018, 35.3 percent of households with incomes below the Federal poverty level were food insecure. Among single mother households with children, 27.8 percent were food insecure in 2018, and among single father households with children, 15.9 percent were food insecure. Food insecurity affected 21.2 percent of Black, non-Hispanic households and 16.2 percent of Hispanic households.

The prevalence of food insecurity varied considerably from State to State, ranging from 7.8 percent in New Hampshire to 16.8 percent in New Mexico in 2016-18. (USDA data for 3 years were combined to provide more reliable State-level statistics.)

Hunger Resources from Global Partners:

  • ELCA World Hunger Resources – Working with and through our congregations in the U.S., Lutheran churches around the world, and other partners, ELCA World Hunger is uniquely positioned to reach communities in need. Hunger resources addressing a variety of topics are available. Examples include: seasonal study guides and materials (Advent and Lent); Vacation Bible School curriculum; videos; toolkits; hunger education resources and more. 
  •  The official report of the 11th Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation held in Stuttgart, Germany in 2010 gathered under the theme Give Us Today Our Daily Bread.  Learn more. 

National Organizations:

 

  • Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) is a national nonprofit organization working to improve public policies and public-private partnerships to eradicate hunger and under nutrition in the United States. Site includes state and regional hunger data.
  • Feeding America is the national network of food banks. Site has great resources for learning about hunger, Map the Meal gap local hunger tool, support for food and nutrition ministries.

Pennsylvania Resources:

Congregational Hunger Ministries

  •  Starting a Food Ministry – There’s no single way to start or run a food pantry. Practice has shown that the most lasting programs are those designed and run by the people who use them, in response to actual community needs. Since each community is different, take time first to talk to people about what they need, and what kinds of programs they are looking for. Remember that hunger is a symptom of other challenges – lack of education, employment, opportunity or a result of the cost of housing, health care or other necessities. A hunger ministry could also be job training or counseling, tutoring, a health clinic or housing ministry, that helps neighbors move out of food insecurity.
  • ELCA World Hunger offers hunger grants to help local hunger ministries get off the ground.
  • Feeding America, the national network of food banks (central distribution points that provide food to pantries and other food programs, at very low cost) is a good resource. You can type in your zip code and find the food bank nearest you: they will tell you about specific policies, requirements, and issues in your area, and help you with all the logistics of setting up a pantry where you are. You can also find out who local pantries operate (monthly, weekly, if there are days or weeks not covered).
  • The USDA Summer Meal Program website has applications for becoming a summer meal site and information on existing sites in your area.
  •  School Breakfast Fact Sheets by County 
    Decades of research shows that eating school breakfast has a multitude of benefits for children. Children from low-income households are more likely to experience hunger and food insecurity. School-based nutrition programs provide an important source of nutrition for children’s growth and development, as well as their academic success. Learn more about the School Breakfast Program in Pennsylvania (SBP).
  • Setting up a food ministry? Visit other pantries and food programs in your community, and ask them about what works, what doesn’t , what they wish they could change. Green Light Food Pantries focus on providing fresh, local food to their service area. Additionally, speaking with local schools, senior centers, community outreach programs and other faith groups in your area can also help you get a bigger picture of local needs, resources and services.
  • Combatting Hunger in Pennsylvania – Click here for a 2019 Issue Brief regarding Hunger in Pennsylvania and how you and members of your congregation can contact state legislators and seek their support for anti-hunger programs in the Commonwealth. Click here to find a legislative leave behind for state lawmakers encouraging them to support the State Food Purchase Program (SFPP) and the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System (PASS) in this year’s budget.

Community Gardens

  • Garden Safe, Garden Well is a project of the Indiana University’s Center for Public Health and was adapted with permission by the Presbyterian Hunger Program. A handy feature of this guide is the ability for anyone to add local urban agriculture organizations and resources on the last page by typing into the PDF and saving, thereby customizing it to your community, town or city. The guide is an accessible primer on soil testing, including a myth-busting section, and it covers basic techniques for urban gardening.
  • Let’s Move offers a step-by-step guide which offers important information about how to safely grow your own fruits and vegetables with others in your community, including selecting a site, finding partners, identifying resources and designing your garden.
  • The American Community Gardening Association (ACGA) is a bi-national nonprofit membership organization of professionals, volunteers and supporters of community greening in urban and rural communities.
  • Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources community garden web page 
  • Penn State County Extension offices offer classes and resources and trained Master Gardeners who are available for community gardening efforts.
  • Seedfolks is a short children’s novel written by Paul Fleischman. The story is told by a diverse cast of characters living on (or near) Gibb Street in Cleveland, Ohio, each from a different ethnic group. Chapter by chapter, each character describes the transformation of an empty lot into a vibrant community garden, and in doing so, they each experience their own transformations.