Food shortages for 14% of US homes


One in seven Americans struggles to get enough to eat, the government reported today, and more than a third go hungry from time to time -- the highest levels since the "food security" report began in 1995.

The new report covers 2008, when the United States was in economic recession and financial markets plunged. The jobless rate has surged past 10 per cent.

The number of households with trouble providing enough food for all family members rose sharply in 2008 from the preceding year, said the Agriculture Department (USDA), which produces the annual report. It is based on a survey conducted each December.

"The recession has made the problem of hunger worse, and it has also made it more visible," said David Beckmann of the anti-hunger group Bread for the World. Mr Beckman called for stronger federal anti-hunger programmes. The school lunch and school breakfast programmes are due for renewal.

In 2008, 14.6 per cent of US households, equal to about 49.1 million people, "had difficulty providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources" said USDA. The families, which the USDA calls "food insecure," went to food pantries, enrolled in anti-hunger programmess and ate less varied diets.

About 5.7 per cent of households, or 17.3 million people, had "very low food security," meaning some members of the household had to eat less. Typically, food runs short in those households for a few days in seven or eight months of the year, USDA said.