We feel that it is important to understand what contributes to a problem before you try to solve it.
Here are some facts, statistics, and other related data on chronic malnutrition, food deserts, food insecurity and hunger in the United States.
Fact #1 - The Cost of Healthy Eating
Nutrient-dense foods that are associated with better health outcomes tend to cost more per kilocalorie (kcal) than do refined grains, sweets and fats. The price disparity between healthful and less healthful foods appears to be growing.
There is a growing price disparity between nutrient-dense foods and less nutritious options. Cost may pose a barrier to the adoption of healthier diets and so limit the impact of dietary guidance. Nutrient profiling methods provide objective criteria for tracking retail prices of foods in relation to their nutritional quality and for guiding food and nutrition policy.
SOURCE: Food Policy, Volume 35, Issue 6, December 2010
Fact #2 - No Car and No Supermarket Within One Mile
A food desert is a low-income census tract where either a substantial number or share of residents has low access to a supermarket or large grocery store. "Low income" tracts are defined as those where at least 20 percent of the people have income at or below the federal poverty levels for family size, or where median family income for the tract is at or below 80 percent of the surrounding area's median family income. Tracts qualify as "low access" tracts if at least 500 persons or 33 percent of their population live more than a mile from a supermarket or large grocery store (for rural census tracts, the distance is more than 10 miles). This definition was developed by a working group comprised of members from the departments of Treasury, Health and Human Services, and USDA, which is partnering to expand the availability of nutritious food.
Under these income and food access criteria, about 10 percent of the 65,000 census tracts in the United States meet the definition of a food desert. These food desert tracts contain 13.5 million people with low access to sources of healthful food. The majority of this population—82 percent—live in urban areas.
Fact #3 - US Farm Subsidies
Farm subsidies overwhelmingly flow to the largest producers of bulk commodities, so “these benefits are mainly distributed to large commercial-sized farms,” wrote the authors the of AEI-sponsored paper. According to EWG’s Farm Subsidy Database, 77 percent of farm subsidies paid between 1995 and 2014 flowed to the largest 10 percent of subsidy recipients. The top 1 percent of subsidy recipients received 26 percent of all payments.
As a result, roughly 30,000 very large farm businesses have received more than $46 billion in subsidy payments – or $1.57 million per farm – over the last two decades. While some very large operations receive more than $1 million annually in subsidies, the bottom 80 percent of subsidy recipients annually collect less than $10,000.
“While farm subsidies transfer income from taxpayers to farm owners, most of the direct beneficiaries are relatively wealthy,” the economists concluded. The median wealth of the nation’s 50,000 largest commercial farms is $6.9 million, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service.
SOURCE: Environmental Working Group
Fact #4 - Household Indicators by Security Status
Most U.S. households have consistent, dependable access to enough food for active, healthy living—they are food secure. But some American households experience food insecurity at times during the year, meaning their access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources. USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs increase food security by providing low-income households access to food, a healthful diet, and nutrition education. USDA monitors the extent and severity of food insecurity in U.S. households through an annual, nationally repre- sentative survey sponsored and analyzed by USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS). This report presents statistics from the survey covering households’ food security, food expenditures, and use of Federal food and nutrition assistance programs in 2015.
In 2015, 15.8 million households were food insecure throughout the year. Food-insecure house- holds (those with low and very low food security) had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources.
In 2015, 6.3 million households had very low food security. In this more severe range of food insecurity, the food intake of some household members was reduced and normal eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year due to limited resources.
Children were food insecure at times during the year in 3.0 million households. These households were unable at times during the year to provide adequate, nutritious food for their children.
SOURCE: Calculated by ERS, USDA, using data from the December 2015 Current Population Survey Food Security Supplement.