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America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2020

Food Security

A family's ability to provide for its children's nutritional needs is linked to the family's food security—that is, to its access at all times to adequate food for an active, healthy life for all household members.23 The food security status of households is based on self-reported difficulty in obtaining enough food, reduced food intake, reduced diet quality, and anxiety about an adequate food supply. In some households classified as food insecure, only adults' diets and food intakes were affected, but in a majority of such households, children's eating patterns also were disrupted to some extent, and the quality and variety of their diets were adversely affected.24

Figure 7: Percentage of children ages 0–17 in food-insecure households by metropolitan status, 2017–2018
Percentage of children ages 0–17 in food-insecure households by metropolitan status, 2017–2018

NOTE: Food-insecure households are those in which either adults or children or both were "food insecure," meaning that, at times, they were unable to acquire adequate food for active, healthy living because the household had insufficient money and other resources for food. The U.S. Office of Management and Budget classifies some counties as within a metropolitan statistical area. The remaining counties are considered nonmetropolitan. Nonmetropolitan counties include counties in micropolitan statistical and rural areas.

SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey Food Security Supplement; tabulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service and Food and Nutrition Service.

  • In 2018, 11.2 million children (15% of all children) lived in households that were classified as food insecure.
  • The percentage of children living in food-insecure households in 2018 (15%) was statistically different from the percentage in 2017 (17%).
  • In 2018, the percentage of children in households that were food insecure was higher outside metropolitan areas (18%) than in metropolitan areas (15%). The percentage of children in food-insecure households in metropolitan areas decreased from 2017 (17%) to 2018 (15%).
  • In 2018, the percentages of children living in food-insecure households were above the national average of 15% for Black, non-Hispanic (26%) and Hispanic (18%).

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23 Anderson, S. A. (Ed.). (1990). Core indicators of nutritional state for difficult-to-sample populations. Journal of Nutrition, 120(11S), 1555–1600.

24 Coleman-Jensen, A., McFall, W., & Nord, M. (2013). Food insecurity in households with children: Prevalence, severity, and household characteristics, 2010–11 (Economic Information Bulletin No. 113). Washington DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Retrieved from