Food Insecurity: What Texas Health Steps Providers Need to Know

Overview: Food Insecurity

child holding empty bowl

Eating healthy food forms the foundation for a healthy life, yet some families struggle to meet basic food needs. National rates of food insecurity have dropped since the Great Recession of 2007-2009. However, the number of U.S. households that find it a challenge to obtain adequate nutritious food remains higher than before that recession began. Food insecurity affects 11.8 percent of U.S. households—15 million households (USDA, 2018).

Low food security impacts 7.3 percent of U.S. households—9.5 million households (USDA, 2018). These families might cope by relying on a few basic foods, reducing the variety of their diet, skipping meals, or buying cheaper foods that are often higher in calories and lower in nutrition.

In 2017, 15.7 percent of U.S. households that had children 17 years or younger were affected by food insecurity. In about half of the households, adults reported that only adults had disrupted eating habits, which often involves going hungry to protect children from missing meals. In the other half—2.9 million households—children were reported as also experiencing the effects of food insecurity (USDA, 2018).

Food for Thought

You can’t tell if someone lives with food insecurity just by looking at him or her. Individuals struggling with food insecurity come from all walks of life, are all sizes, and have all types of jobs and home situations. “The family was so well dressed and put together, I never would have suspected they were homeless and hungry” (American Academy of Pediatrics [AAP] Voices, 2015).

Food Insecurity in Texas

Texas is among 11 states with higher-than-average food insecurity rates. From 2015 to 2017, one in seven households lacked enough food for active, healthy lives (USDA, 2018).

Nearly one in four Texas children—1.6 million—experiences food insecurity (Feeding America, 2019). Of those children, 37 percent likely are not eligible for federal nutrition programs because their family’s income exceeds programs’ income limits related to the federal poverty level.

Food insecurity rates are available for each county in Texas from Feeding Texas, a nonprofit food bank network. Refer to the Appendix for a link to the interactive Texas map.