Hunger and Food Insecurity in the United States

Hunger affects many people in the U.S.Many American adults and school-age children regularly suffer from hunger and food insecurity. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), nearly 15 percent of Americans—about 49 million people, including 15.9 million children—were food insecure at least some time during the year in 2012. On average, households that experience food insecurity are food insecure for 7 months of the year, meaning that for more than half the year members of the household have with limited or uncertain access to nutritious, safe foods that are necessary to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Today in America, 1 out of every 5 children does not know where there next meal is coming from.

Hunger and Academic Achievement

At NEA Healthy Futures we are concerned about hunger because of the established relationship between hunger, academic achievement and child development. According to the Food Research and Action Center’s Breakfast for Learning report, experiencing hunger can have many negative effects on children’s academic performance and behavior in school:

  • Hungry children have lower math scores and are more likely to have to repeat a grade.
  • Children experiencing hunger are more likely to be hyperactive, absent and tardy, in addition to having behavioral and attention problems more often than other children.
  • Children with hunger are more likely to have received special education services, or received mental health counseling, than low-income children who do not experience hunger.

A hungry boy eats an apple and smilesWhat Can NEA Members Do to Help?

It has been said that the single most important thing a student can do to support better academic outcomes is to eat a healthy breakfast each morning. As educators and education support professionals, NEA members can help alleviate childhood hunger by promoting in-school meals such as those offered through the School Breakfast Program.

Download the Start School with Breakfast: A Guide to Increasing School Breakfast Participation is a publication from the NEA Healthy Futures and Share Our Strength. Within the Guide is information about the benefits of school breakfast, new ways to increase school breakfast participation, useful tools for advocates and success stories from other districts. To view the guide online you can go to Share Our Strength’s website.

For NEA members working in districts with high rates of free and reduced price students, consider advocating for Breakfast in the Classroom, which is proven to increase participation in the School Breakfast Program. For more information about Breakfast in the Classroom and other alternative meal delivery models, click here.