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Just the facts

Hunger: the mental and physical condition brought on by inadequate food intake in the short or long term.

On the individual level, hunger comes from eating too little food to support a healthy life. At the political and global levels, hunger is not caused by a lack of food; in fact, the world produces enough food to feed every person on earth. Hunger is caused instead by poverty, and by the policies and power structures which leave millions without access to food, land, water and sustainable livelihoods. Too often, this is to the benefit of rich multinational corporations and wealthy nations.


In 2013, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations,there were 840 million hungry people in the world--one in every eight people. Sixty percent of those are women. Every year, 2.5 million children die from malnutrition. There is considerable controversy about how the FAO calculates this number, with critiques that it neglects larger issues of poverty, inequality and rising food prices, and so it is almost certain that the number of people facing hunger worldwide is even higher.

12.2 million adults and 5.4 million children in U.S. households experience "very low food security" or hunger. People in these households frequently skip meals or eat too little, sometimes going without food for a whole day.


About 50 million Americans, or one in six, are food insecure, according to the UDSA definition, meaning they are often forced to skip meals, eat less at meals, buy cheap non-nutritious food and/or sometimes feed their children but not themselves. 16.7 million children, or one in five, are food insecure. There are 17.5 million households (14.3 percent of all households) suffering from severe food insecurity, which means they are often hungry.19.5 percent of households with children were food insecure in 2013.

48 million Americans rely on SNAP (Supplemental Assistance Program, formerly food stamps) to meet their food needs. For 6 million people, SNAP is their only source of income.

In what may seem an ironic twist, more than 12 million children who suffer from hunger are also overweight or obese. Many families suffering from hunger and poverty live in areas where fresh, unprocessed, healthy food is not available or is expensive, and so the food that they have access to is nutritionally deficient. This phenomenon is often called the hunger-obesity paradox.


Poverty, a root cause of hunger, is also often indicated by marginal income, and access to healthcare, education, clothing and shelter. In the US, there are 46.2 million people living in poverty, including 21.9 percent of children. Federal guidelines set the poverty rate at $23,050 for a family of four, but depending on a family’s specific city and state of residence, the actual minimum amount required to raise a family could be two or three times that. In 2010, farmworker households had staggeringly low family incomes, with a median between $7,500 and $10,000, and over three-fifths of farm worker households were living in poverty. The vast majority of people who grow, pick, and process our food live in poverty and cannot afford to buy adequate healthy food.


Worldwide, one in three people live on less than the equivalent of $1.25 a day, and two in three people on less than $2 a day. 30 percent of children living in developing countries – about 600 million – live on less than $1 a day.

For more information visit our Food Security Learning Center