How Many Kids in the United States Live With Hunger?

As we continue to deal with the COVID pandemic, as many as 1 in 6 kids in the United States, or about 11.7 million, may face hunger this year.

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

But there is good news. The pandemic showed us that when it comes to feeding kids in America, we have programs that work.

The Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Before the pandemic, the number of children struggling with hunger had been steadily decreasing for a decade. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), in 2019, 10.7 million children lived in a family considered “food insecure,” a record low.

Then the pandemic hit. Almost overnight, millions of families were suddenly facing unemployment, hospital bills, evictions and hardship. 

No Kid Hungry and other organizations immediately went into action, fighting for policies to bring relief to families, including federal relief packages, a temporary increase to SNAP benefits and waivers that allowed schools and community organizations to adapt their programs.

At the same time, No Kid Hungry invested almost $100 million into meals programs across all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and DC to help organizations reach as many kids as possible with the food they needed.

Despite the terrible impact of the pandemic, new data from the USDA shows that we did not see a major rise in food insecurity in 2020. Because of the programs that No Kid Hungry and many others fought for, American families were able to weather the storm. 

How Can We Feed More Kids?

It’s time to double down on our efforts to feed children in the United States.

Black girl wearing as mask with hands on hips

Even though the impact wasn't as bad as we feared, many more kids face hunger today than before the pandemic hit, and children and their families will feel the impact of this crisis well into the future.

We’ve learned a lot about how to combat child hunger during this pandemic. We're funding programs that work. We're advocating for policies that bring relief to children and their families. And we're building on the lessons we learned from feeding children during this pandemic to make No Kid Hungry a reality.

The "1 in 6" figure is based on data from the USDA, as well as analysis from Feeding America. This blog post has been updated to reflect the latest research.