How Many Kids in the United States Live With Hunger?

1 in 8 kids in the United States are living with hunger. That's 9 million children.

Some of these children are missing meals; others are faced with hunger-related hardships as parents and caretakers make tradeoffs between buying groceries or paying bills.

But there is good news. This number went down over the past year. The pandemic showed us that when it comes to feeding kids in America, we have programs that work.

Hunger vs Food Insecurity

Hunger is not something we can measure; it's something we experience. Instead, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) measures "food insecurity".

Households that are food insecure are those that struggled to provide enough food for everyone living there at some point during the year. A child living in a food-insecure household might not get enough food to eat. Or her mother may have to skip meals to feed her. Or the family may have enough to eat one month, but not the next.

In all these cases, that child is living with hunger. 

What We Learned About Feeding Kids During the COVID-19 Pandemic

When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, hunger in the United States skyrocketed as millions of families faced unemployment, hospital bills, evictions and hardship. 

No Kid Hungry and other organizations fought for policies to help families, including federal relief packages, a temporary increase to SNAP benefits and waivers that allowed schools and community organizations to adapt their programs.

Those policies worked. In fact, they worked so well that childhood hunger dropped dramatically in 2021 and a lot fewer children missed meals.

How Many Kids Are Facing Hunger Today?

Data about childhood hunger is released annually by the USDA. If you read the latest figures from the USDA, you'll see that 9 million children are facing hunger in the United States today. 

But the USDA numbers measure the situation from one year ago. And, despite our best efforts, many of the programs that did so much to feed kids and lift families out of poverty have been discontinued. 

Today, we believe the reality is worse. More recent data shows that food insecurity is on the rise. But the pandemic showed us what's possible when we put more resources into taking care of our kids - we know that childhood hunger is a problem we can solve together.