Food insecurity, for decades the bane of developing countries, has, in the post-recession years assumed worrisome proportions in the world’s most powerful nation – the United States.

In a scathing report on Household Food Security in the U.S., 2009, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has revealed that 14.7 per cent of American households were food insecure at least some time during 2009, including 5.7 per cent with very low food security.

The report further said that in households with very low food security – described by the USDA as a “severe range of food insecurity” – the food intake of its members dropped and eating patterns “were disrupted at times during the year,” due to resource constraints.

While the latest figure for food insecurity and very low food security remained close to their 2008 levels of 14.6 per cent and 5.7 per cent respectively, they nonetheless hovered at the highest recorded levels since 1995, when the first national food security survey was conducted.

Highlighting the significant inequalities in food resource availability across U.S. households the USDA report noted that the typical food-secure household spent a whopping 33 per cent more on food than the typical food-insecure household of the same size and household composition.

Also indicating a racial divide in food security outcomes the report found that the rates of food insecurity were substantially higher than the national average among African-American and Hispanic households.

Further such insecurity was higher among households with incomes near or below the federal poverty line and among households with children headed by single parents, the report said. The USDA report was based on data from an annual survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau as a supplement to its monthly Current Population Survey.

The USDA said that the 2009 food security survey covered about 46,000 households and it asked one adult respondent in each household a series of questions about experiences and behaviours that indicate food insecurity, such as being unable, at times, to afford balanced meals, cutting the size of meals because of too little money for food, or being hungry because of too little money for food.

The food security status of the household was assigned based on the number of food-insecure conditions reported.

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