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United Way Blog

5 Surprising Facts about Hunger in America

Hunger is not a simple problem. This year, 41 million Americans will worry about where their next meal will come from. They are food-insecure, struggling to provide or eat enough each day.

But hunger means more than starving for a few days. It can lead to malnourishment, impairing children’s development and leading to chronic diseases. Hungry kids can’t learn, weakening a child’s foundation for success in school, work and life. So – hunger is a health, education and financial stability problem.

Experts define food insecurity as having problems getting food, a shortage of food in the house, or reduced food intake (i.e., there might not be dinner every night this week because payday is Friday).

Here are five facts about hunger that may surprise you:

  1. One in 8 families in America are hungry. That’s 12.3% of all U.S. households, including what economists call “the working poor” who earn about $25,000 a year for a family of four. Out of that estimated $2,017 a month, families need to pay for housing, utilities, child care, transportation, health care – and groceries.
  2. Some 48% of college students in America are food insecure. A new study published by Temple University and the Wisconsin HOPE Lab highlights some staggering stats: 36 percent of college students say they are food insecure.  It’s more prevalent among college students of color, up to 57 percent. Find out more about the pressure on college students here.
  3. We may think those in rural communities aren’t hungry because they can grow their own food. But the fact is, 15% of people in rural areas are hungry. Often, they don’t have access to grocery stores or transportation.
  4. Food-insecure people are more prone to obesity. Not having a grocery store close by (and limited transportation) forces people to shop at places that sell mostly packaged and prepared foods – higher in calories, but lower in nutrition.
  5. 60% of households led by older Americans must choose between buying groceries or paying utility bills.

Why are so many people hungry? For many, unexpected life events, health crises or underemployment can contribute to why they don’t have enough food every day.

Many local United Ways in the U.S. and internationally are working to end hunger in our communities. Thanks to a $5 million grant from Wells Fargo in 2017, 27 local United Ways received a grant to continue their work to end hunger in their communities. It was part of our collaboration on a holiday food drive that raised more than 200,000 pounds of food for food banks across the country.

So what can you do to fight hunger? Here are 3 easy ways to become part of the solution:

  • Get informed – Check out videos, infographics and stories here and share the link with your friends and family on social media.
  • Get involved – Donate your time, talents or money to a local food bank. Connect with your local United Way to get started.
  • Get help – If you or someone you know is worried about having enough food to eat, call 211 to find available resources in your community. Or find your local 211 center here.

#WorldHungerDay #Hunger

Inspired by what you read? Change starts with you. Take action today to make a difference in your community.

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