Nearly 6 percent of American households knew severe hunger in 2012, according to a new report out from the Agriculture Department. That means that 7 million households in the United States faced what the USDA calls "very low food security." Over the course of 2012, 17.6 million American households were more generally food insecure at some point during the year.
What exactly does it mean to have low or very low food security? Here are the conditions those households reported living through at some point in 2012:
The percentage of severely food insecure households is unchanged from 2011. The overall level of food insecurity is largely unchanged since a spike at the start of the recession (11.1 percent in 2007, 14.6 percent in 2008). In 2002, 11.1 percent of all households were food insecure, compared with 14.5 percent a decade later.
The numbers are also bleak for households with children, which had a higher rate of food insecurity (20 percent) than the national average for 2012. These rates particularly spiked for households led by a single woman (35.4 percent). About 8.3 million children lived in homes where at least one child was food insecure. But the adults in these households were typically worse off:
Black, non-Hispanic households also had a higher rate of food insecurity, at 24.6 percent compared with 11.2 percent of white, non-Hispanic households. Among all states, Mississippi had the highest rate of food insecurity with 20.9 percent of households, and North Dakota had the lowest, with 8.7 percent of households. The state rankings, the Agriculture Department is careful to note, are tricky to measure because of the margins of error.