The U.S. Department of Agriculture has released its annual report on household food security. For the purposes of this report, food insecurity is defined as any households that at any point during the year had a lack of access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. What is judged as healthy is certainly debatable.
14.5% of U.S. households were food insecure at least some time in 2012, including 5.7% with very low food security, meaning that the food intake of one or more household members was reduced and their eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year because the household lacked money and other resources for food. Neither of these numbers are a statistically significant change from 2011.
In 2012, the typical household that was food secure spent 26% more on food than the typical food insecure household of the same size and household composition. 59% of all food insecure households participated in one or more of the three largest Federal food and
nutrition assistance programs during the month prior to the 2012 survey. The largest of these is SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), which as of June provided benefits to 47.76 millions Americans.
This chart from the report shows the demographics of who was food insecure in 2011 and 2012.
A map constructed by Reuters makes visible the regional differences in food insecurity. The South is far less food secure than the North, with the highest food insecurity in Mississippi.