just the text

Just the facts


Hunger in the U.S. and around the world is caused by various complex social and economic factors of which much ink has been spilled. We realize that one web page can hardly do justice to all the facts and thoughts on this matter. Our main goal with this page is to provide a brief overview of up to date hunger facts in an attempt to educate the public about the realities and the root causes of hunger and poverty.

We know that the world can produce enough food to feed every person on earth1 . So why is there still hunger and what can we do about it? The root causes of hunger are due to the systems, policies and institutions that benefit multinational corporations and wealthy nations, while leaving millions of people without access to food, land, water and sustainable livelihoods.
Our global food system is structured to value profits over people and planet.

In other words, hunger is caused by poverty and injustice.

hunger in the us


  • Over 2 billion people do not have regular access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food, including 8 percent of the population in Northern America and Europe1.*
  • The chances of being food insecure are still approximately 10 percent higher for women than for men2.
  • Every year, 3.1 million children under five die due to malnutrition.3


* This is the number reported by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. Critics claim that the FAO data neglects larger issues of poverty, inequality and rising food prices. It is almost certain that the number of people facing hunger worldwide is even higher.


  • In 2018, 37.2 million people lived in food-insecure households, meaning they are often forced to skip meals, eat less at meals, buy cheap non-nutritious food and/or feed their children but not themselves.4
  • 1 in 6 children in the U.S. is food insecure.5
  • There are 14.3 million U.S. households suffering from food insecurity.6
  • In 2018, 5.6 million U.S. households experienced severe food insecurity.7
  • Nearly 1 in 7 households with children cannot afford buy enough food for their families.8
  • On average, 40.4 million Americans rely on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) each month to meet their food needs. An additional 6.9 million women and children are assisted by the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program.9
  • Among SNAP households with children, more than half of adults work while receiving SNAP, and almost 90 percent are employed the prior or subsequent year. SNAP helps Americans return to work, and increasingly, it helps those who already work, but do not receive a sufficient wage to feed themselves or their families.11
  • 1 in 4 people who are food insecure are unlikely to qualify for most federal nutrition programs.*
  • Many families suffering from hunger and poverty live in areas where fresh, unprocessed, healthy food is not available or is expensive, while the food they do have access to is nutritionally deficient.12

* 2018. Mapping the Meal Gap 2018: A Report on County and Congressional District Food Insecurity and County Food Cost in the United States in 2016. Feeding America.


Poverty, a root cause of hunger, is also often indicated by marginal income
and limited access to healthcare, education, clothing and shelter.


  • There are 38.1 million people living in poverty in the US, including 12.8 million children.13 That’s 1 in 6 American children.
  • 2019 federal guidelines set the poverty rate at $25,750 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.15
  • The vast majority of people who grow, pick and process our food live in poverty and cannot afford to buy adequate healthy food. 86% of jobs in the food system offer very low wages at the poverty level and below the poverty level.16


  • Worldwide, 736 million people, or 10% of the world’s population, live on the equivalent of less than $1.90 per day.17

For more information on WHyHunger's vision for a world free from hunger, visit Our Work.