US: Food insecurity

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There is a sharp rise in hunger in the US.

Some 17 million US households suffered "food insecurity" at some point in 2008, according to a survey by the US Department of Agriculture. This figure, comprising just under 15 percent of all households, was up sharply from 13 million in 2007 and has now reached the highest level since such surveys began in 1995.

Food insecurity is a polite expression for hunger and is defined in the report as households that "had difficulty providing enough food for all their members due to lack of resources" - lack of money, in other words.

Children are often shielded by the impact of a household's inability to feed itself, with parents going without instead. Nevertheless, over 500,000 children in the US experienced hunger at some point in 2008, a rise of nearly 60 percent on the previous year. Those households struggling to feed themselves were more likely to be headed by single parents and to be black or Hispanic (and more likely to be in the south).

This year the impact of the recession hit still harder, with millions of jobs lost and millions of other workers across the US seeing the number of hours they work reduced and in some cases their actual pay cut. In a society of unprecedented plenty, even more will struggle to feed themselves and their children across the US this year and next.