just the text

Just the facts


Hunger in the U.S. and around the world is caused by complex and interconnected social and economic factors. Inflation, war, the COVID pandemic, and climate change are impacting food insecurity around the globe and across the US. 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 an overview of up-to-date hunger facts to educate the public about the root causes of hunger and its realities worldwide.

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. Learn more about how WhyHunger and our allies across the globe are working to transform these systems, end hunger and ensure everyone’s right to nutritious food.

  • Global poverty rates started to decline in the 1990s, but this progress slowed during the 2010s—even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Armed conflict, war and climate change are a significant factor in the uptick of people below the poverty line threats.1 
  • Projections estimate that nearly 670 million people will still be facing hunger in 2030 – 8% of the world population.2  
    • In the U.S., low wages, underemployment, and lack of benefits and healthcare limit which vital services and goods families can afford. More than 44 million Americans, disproportionately Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color—often must make the difficult choice between buying food or paying for housing, childcare, education, medicine, and transportation.  
    • Forty percent of Americans are living just one paycheck away from poverty, making impossible decisions between feeding their families and paying for other necessities.3 


  • 13 million children (about twice the population of Arizona) face food insecurity every year. 4 
hunger in the us

Short-term food charity is critical to minimizing suffering now, but it cannot end hunger alone. 

When people try to solve the problem of hunger by giving out food, they don’t address the larger underlying injustices that create barriers to food and health

    • The COVID-19 pandemic exposed significant challenges in the approach of governments around the globe to address food and agriculture policies, resulting in increased hunger, food insecurity, and malnutrition.5

    • Community-based organizations, mutual aid and private charities, and massive government aid packages helped keep hunger from skyrocketing during the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrating how deeply economic justice and hunger are linked. The end of these temporary relief measures is thought to correlate with a subsequent rise in food insecurity. The number of Americans who did not have enough to eat over a seven-day period rose from over 18 million in August 2021 to over 26 million in August 2023,6

    • The private charitable food sector in the U.S. has never been able to keep up with food insecurity, or a lack of consistent access to enough food to live a healthy life, which has impacted around 11% of the population over the past 30 years.7

    • Federal food assistance programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) deliver roughly nine times more food to people than the entire Feeding America network, which includes hundreds of food banks.8

  • Ninety percent of all Americans believe hunger is a solvable problem, and 59% agree it’s impossible to solve without addressing the root causes of economic injustice, racism, and lack of access.9

The inability to source fresh, natural foods is a health equity issue that leads to poor health outcomes, including preventable disease, obesity, and shortened lifespans.  

  • Globally, support to agricultural production largely concentrates on staple foods, dairy, and other animal-source, protein-rich foods. Fruits and vegetables are less supported overall, and even penalized in some low-income countries.10 
  • People experiencing hunger are three times more likely to suffer from diet-related illness.11 
  • Children experiencing food insecurity or a lack of consistent access to enough food have, on average, smaller academic gains and higher incidences of anxiety, depression, and chronic illness.12 


Racial and geographic disparities in food access are both root causes of hunger, perpetuating health inequity.  

  • Structural racism largely segregates access to healthy food along racial lines, leading to “food apartheid” in communities of color. People of color are also more often the target of food companies whose products lead to poor health outcomes. 
  • Food insecurity or a lack of consistent access to enough food does not affect everyone the same way. Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color, LGBTQ communities, women, and children face the effects of food insecurity at higher rates than other communities. Food insecurity among Black or Latinx individuals is higher than white individuals in 99% of U.S. counties.13 
  • Black and Latinx households experience food insecurity at nearly triple and double the rate of white households (19.8% and 16.2% vs. 7%, respectively).14 
  • Rural counties outside of major metropolitan areas have the highest rates of food insecurity among all counties in the U.S. at 87%.15 
  • In 2023, As many as 783 million people are facing chronic hunger around the world. This constitutes a staggering rise of almost 200 million people compared to pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels.16 
  • In 2023, hunger affected 278 million people in Africa, 425 million in Asia, and 56.5 million in Latin America and the Caribbean.17 


Global public health crises worsen existing hunger and inequality.  

  • Nearly 828 million people around the world go to bed hungry every night. And 50 million people in 45 countries are inching towards famine, or widespread food scarcity.18 
  • War is the leading cause of hunger, pushing 158 million innocent people into alarming levels of hunger. Conflict forces families from their homes, destroys economies, ruins infrastructure and makes food nearly impossible to find or afford. 19 
  • Despite hopes that the world would emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021 and food security would begin to improve, it only worsened. 
  • conUnequal patterns of economic recovery globally and unrecovered income losses among those most affected by the pandemic exacerbated inequalities across and within countries. 20 
  • In 2022, 38 million people in the U.S. were living in poverty—11.5% of the total population—according to the U.S. Census Bureau.21 


The United States does not recognize food as a human right.  

WhyHunger believes governments are responsible for protecting peoples’ right to food and ending food insecurity. Unfortunately, the United States is one of the few countries that do not recognize this right, making it even harder to address the underlying social and economic root causes of hunger.  

  • Eighty-three percent of Americans say the U.S. should declare food as a basic human right, but only half feel the government has adequate systems in place to solve hunger domestically.22 
  • Federal food programs, including SNAP, WIC, and School Meals, are outdated and inadequate. We need policies that ensure no child goes hungry through Universal School Meals, including meals for afterschool programs and during the summer. We also need strengthened and modernized SNAP and WIC programs with expanded eligibility, benefits that match current costs of living, and increased accessibility. 
  • As many as one in three people who are food insecure are unlikely to qualify for SNAP, the largest food assistance program in the U.S.23 
  • The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas (UNDROP) are the primary tools for accountability and advancement of the right to food internationally. U.S.-based leaders can look to the countries that have ratified these declarations and learn from the communities using the declarations to hold governments accountable. 
  • More than 60% of counties in the U.S. with majority Native populations were very food insecure in 2020.24A recent study from the American Society of Nutrition also estimated that 45.7% of U.S. American Indian and Alaska Native are food insecure.25 


Industrial food production exploits workers and destroys the environment.  

  • Corporations routinely drive small-scale farmers off their ancestral lands and use practices that harm the earth. Industrial agriculture pollutes our water sources, destroys our soil, and exploits workers. It also accounts for roughly 30% of greenhouse gases and commodity crops that don’t make it to people’s plates.  
  • Worldwide support to food and agriculture accounted for almost $630 billion per year on average between 2013 and 2018. However, a significant proportion of this support distorts market prices, is environmentally destructive, and hurts small-scale producers and Indigenous Peoples, while failing to deliver healthy diets to those who need them most.26 
  • More frequent heat waves, flooding, and severe droughts will significantly drive-up food costs, increase food insecurity, and endanger people's lives and well-being. 
  • Eighty-six percent of jobs in the U.S. food system offer wages at or below the poverty level. This means that the people who grow, pick, and process our nation's food cannot afford to nourish themselves.27 
  • More than a third of U.S. families that work full-time do not earn enough money to cover their most basic needs, including housing, food, and childcare.28 
  • Small-scale and BIPOC farmers are being left behind. There were nearly 6.5 million farms in the U.S. 100 years ago, and that number has fallen to two million today. In that same time span, the number of Black farmers fell from one million to 45,000.29 
  • The targeting of poor, Black, Brown, and Indigenous peoples through lending institutions, discriminatory policies, and systemic racism has led to a lack of wealth and limited opportunities for community control over food systems.  
  • U.S. agricultural policies contribute to environmental injustice and climate change by upholding industrial agriculture. Industrial agriculture worldwide uses 70% of the planet’s freshwater.30 
  • Because the U.S. grows more non-food crops than food crops, it is increasingly reliant on produce from other countries.