12.6% of D.C. Households Struggling with Hunger


One in eight households in Washington, D.C. struggled with hunger on average in the years 2009-2011, according to new data released today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in its annual report on food insecurity. Nationally, more than 50.1 million people lived in households that were food insecure in 2011. These numbers show that there are far too many hungry Americans, even while some in Congress propose billions in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps).

But overwhelming majorities oppose SNAP cuts, according to new polling data released today by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). The majorities are as strong as in other polls in 2010 and early 2012, despite several intervening months of criticism of the program and false charges by conservative Members of Congress, conservative media outlets, and others. In particular, when asked “[t]his year, Congress will consider cutting billions of dollars from the food stamp program in an effort to reduce federal spending. Do you favor cutting food assistance to low-income families and seniors, or do you think that is the wrong way to reduce government spending,” 75% say it is the wrong way to reduce spending. That number was 77% in January 2012 and 71 percent in November 2010.

“With increases in requests for SNAP assistance, D.C. Hunger Solutions knows the critical role this program is playing to help people buy food and the devastating impact of proposed federal cuts which would harm the most vulnerable among us – seniors, working families, and children,” said Alexandra Ashbrook, director of D.C. Hunger Solutions. “Americans recognize the importance of SNAP, and they believe government should – and must – do more to address hunger.”

Both the Senate and House Agriculture Committee versions of the Farm Bill contain cuts to SNAP. The Senate plan for the Farm Bill includes a cut of more than $4 billion over 10 years to the program, achieved largely by reducing SNAP benefits for an estimated 500,000 households by $90/month. The House Agriculture Committee bill would make these same cuts plus end benefits totally for a minimum of 1.8 million people, cutting the program by $16 billion.

79% of respondents to the FRAC poll support spending more (55%) federal money or about the same amount (24 percent) to address the problem of hunger, compared to only 17 percent who say the federal government should be spending less. Support for the SNAP program specifically and opposition to SNAP cuts are high among Democrats, Republicans, and Independents; higher among women than men; high in all major geographic regions; and high among all age groups, especially among those aged 18 to 34. The poll of 1,011 adults was conducted by Hart Research Associates from August 23-26, 2012.

Among the 12.6% of households in Washington, D.C. considered to be food insecure during the 2009-2011 period, 4.4% were considered to have “very low food security.” People that fall into this USDA category had more severe problems, experiencing deeper hunger and cutting back or skipping meals on a more frequent basis for both adults and children.

Full results of the poll are available on FRAC’s website.

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About the USDA Report
Since 1995, the United States Department of Agriculture, using data from surveys conducted annually by the Census Bureau, has released estimates of the number of people in households that are food insecure. Food insecure households are those that are not able to afford an adequate diet at all times in the past 12 months. The report also includes food insecurity rates for each state, but for states it uses three-year averages to give a better estimate of the number of households experiencing food insecurity. Experts agree that the Census/USDA measure of food insecurity is a conservative one, with the result that only households experiencing substantial food insecurity are so classified.