The figures are worse within multicultural communities. According to the USDA figures, more than 25 percent of African-American households and 26 percent of Hispanic households suffered from food insecurity in 2010, compared to 10.8 percent of white non-Hispanic households.
At the same time, “very low food security” or “food security with hunger” declined significantly, from 5.7 percent in 2009 to 5.4 percent in 2010, due in part to federally-funded safety-net programs that helped keep millions of Americans from going hungry. Many of these programs are currently on the chopping block as Congress resumes deficit-reduction talks this week. The next phase of the battle to balance the budget and reduce the deficit now falls on the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction -or “Super Committee” - which must identify $1.5 trillion in federal deficit reductions.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is one program being considered. More than 45 million Americans - one in five - currently receive SNAP benefits. USDA reports that 59 percent of all food-insecure households participated in one or more of the three largest nutrition assistance programs around the time that the data was collected. Participation in these programs has increased in recent years due to high rates of unemployment. Some lawmakers have proposed deep cuts and changes to these programs that will result in millions of Americans going hungry.
“The fact that the overall figures remain unchanged but SNAP participation is at an all-time high speaks to the necessity of safety-net programs,” added Beckmann. “As Congress returns to Washington this week from August recess, we must urge members to spare programs that are vital to hungry people and continue to form a circle of protection around programs that help offset the ongoing impacts of the recession as millions of Americans work to meet their basic needs.”