You’ve got a lot on your plate. You’re trying to figure out how to make ends meet, how to pay for your kids’ college education, and how to feed yourself and your family.
We know that feeling—and we know what it’s like to go searching for the latest statistics on food insecurity only to come away empty-handed. That’s why we’ve created this list of food insecurity statistics for you. These numbers will help you understand the scope of the problem and get equipped with the knowledge you need to fight against it.
You can use these statistics in a number of ways: share them with friends and family who might not be as familiar with food insecurity as you are; use them when talking with legislators about why they should support legislation that helps low-income families, or even just keep them handy whenever someone asks you what they can do to help end hunger in America (because there’s always someone who wants to know).
Global Food Insecurity Statistics
1. 83 countries experienced significant food insecurity during the pandemic
While the causes of food insecurity are diverse, many researchers agree the pandemic has played a significant role in the increasing number of people going hungry around the world today.
According to phone surveys conducted by the World Bank throughout the first two years of the pandemic, around 83 countries were suffering. These countries had a significant number of people running out of food, or reducing food consumption during the pandemic.
According to the World bank, this is a worrying discovery, as reduced consumption of nutritional food could threaten serious health issues, and reduce the development of young children.
2. The number of people affected by hunger worldwide increased to 9.9% in 2020
Annual reports from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations highlighted a growing prevalence of food insecurity and hunger around the world in recent years. Though world hunger statistics remained largely unchanged between the years 2014 and 2019, the prevalence of “undernourished” individuals increased to 9.9% in 2020 (up from 8.4% in 2019).
According to the 2020 SOFI report, it’s estimated somewhere between 720 and 811 million people worldwide struggled with food insecurity in 2020. What’s more, approximately 118 million more people were dealing with hunger and malnutrition in 2020 compared to 2019.
The researchers behind the report suggest around 660 million people will still be dealing with hunger in 2030, thanks in part to the lasting effects the pandemic has had on the global food security landscape. This number is equal to double the current population of the US.
3. 9% of the world’s population are “severely” food insecure
(Our World in Data)
Research conducted by “Our World in Data” highlights significant problems with food insecurity throughout the world today. According to a report published in 2018, approximately 9.2% of the world’s population was defined as “severely food insecure.” In other words, these people had inadequate access to sufficient quantities of food.
The region with the highest levels of food insecurity, according to the study, was sub-Saharan Africa, where around one-third of all residents are severely insecure.
On a wider scale, the charts from 2018 found around 697 million people were severely food insecure, with more than half of those living with food insecurity located in Asia and 40% in Africa. Only around 10% of severely food insecure individuals were located in Oceania, Europe, and the Americas.
4. Food Insecurity is most prevalent in Asia as of 2020
The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) SOFI report for 2021 found the problems of food insecurity are growing particularly significantly in the Asian landscape. Of the approximately 768 million people defined as “undernourished” in the world today, 418 million live in Asia.
Comparatively, around 282 undernourished people live in Africa, and a further 60 million are located in Latin America and the Caribbean.
5. One in four people are moderately food insecure
(Our World in Data)
Levels of “food insecurity” in regions around the world are often measured according to severity. Those with “moderate food insecurity” generally worry more about the ability to access or afford a nutritious and healthy diet. Around one in four people worldwide are suffering from moderate levels of food insecurity as of 2017.
Interestingly, Our World in Data found food insecurity is a major issue across all regions, though numbers are greater in Africa and South Asia. Even high-income areas around the world had some instances of food insecurity to report.
6. Global food insecurity rose more in 2020 than in the previous five years combined
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, the presence of food insecurity issues has been steadily rising for some time now, since around 2014. However, the estimated increase seen in 2020 was particularly dramatic, equalling the previous five years of growth combined.
In 2020, Nearly 1 in 3 people throughout the world didn’t have access to adequate food for a range of reasons, from pandemic restrictions to supply chain issues. This is equal to an increase of around 320 million people without the right access to food compared to the year before.
Food insecurity issues defined as either “moderate” or “severe” is now estimated to affect more than 30% of the world’s population.
7. Globally, 1 in 10 people don’t have enough food to eat
(Action Against Hunger)
According to a report from Action Against Hunger, inspired by the UN Hunger Report, globally, 1 in 10 people do not have access to enough food to eat. What’s more, 3.1 billion people cannot afford a nutritious and healthy diet. The problem is particularly severe among children.
The report notes around 2.3 million children currently die every year as a result of malnutrition. What’s more, 75% of malnourished children do not get the treatment they need. Thanks to the influence of the pandemic, this problem could worsen in the months to come.
Action Against Hunger notes around 10,000 more children under the age of five could die as a result of food insecurity and malnutrition following the pandemic.
8. 70% of high-income countries are experiencing food price inflation
A report issued by World Bank notes the causes of food insecurity around the world are often varied and not only linked to the rise of the global pandemic. As of June 2022, the Agricultural Price Index rose around 34% higher than the average price in January 2021.
Domestic price inflation is also increasing around the world. Approximately 70% of higher-income countries are experiencing significant food price inflation. The problem only gets worse among lower-income countries. 89% of lower-middle income countries are facing food price inflations, compared to around 94% of low-income countries.
Over the coming months, the World Bank predicts it will become increasingly difficult for famers to access fertilizers, thanks to the war in Ukraine, which will further damage food production in various regions. What’s more, 18 countries have implemented a total of 31 food export policies since the start of the war in Ukraine.
9. Global hunger levels reached their highest point in 2021
(Global Report on Food Crises)
Globally, the presence of hunger throughout countries around the world is rising. As of 2021, the Global Report on Food Crises revealed almost 193 million people were defined as “acutely food insecure.” This was an increase of around 40 million more people than the previously recorded high introduced in 2020.
According to the World Bank, insecurity, conflict, and the global pandemic are all factors increasing food insecurity. The FAO and WFP have also warned that acute levels of food insecurity might worsen within at least 20 countries from June to September 2022.
Food Insecurity Among Children
10. Between 2019 and 2020, 10.8% of children lived in households facing food insecurity
The national health interview survey conducted by the CDC revealed some troubling news about the impact of food insecurity levels on children. According to the report, between the years 2019 and 2020, around 10.8% of all children in the US between the ages of 0 and 17 had experienced food insecurity issues within 30 days of the report.
The number of children experiencing food insecurity was much higher for black and Hispanic children at 18.8% and 15.7%, respectively, compared to white children at 6.5%. Additionally, children with disabilities were more likely to be affected by food insecurity.
Around 19.3% of children with disabilities were dealing with households, compared to only 9.8% of children without a disability. Family characteristics such as the number of children in the household and family structure were also associated with risk levels.
11. Children living in larger central metropolitan areas are more likely to be food insecure
A report conducted by the CDC into the impact of food insecurity on the lives of children found children in certain areas of the US were more likely to suffer from food insecurity.
The children in the survey located in larger central metropolitan areas were the most likely to have food insecurity issues, at 13.2%. Comparatively, food insecurity issues are faced by around 7.4% of children in fringe metro areas and 10.5% of children in smaller metropolitan areas.
Notably, the report also revealed that children with only one parent were more likely to experience food insecurity. Around 19.9% of children with only one parent lived in a food insecure household, compared to 7.7% of children with both parents.
Additionally, the number of children experiencing food insecurity increased with the number of children present in the household. 9.4% of children in homes with fewer than three children experienced food insecurity, compared to 13% of children in households with more than three children.
12. More than 200,000 children skipped meals because of food insecurity in the UK
Food Foundation reports demonstrating the severity of food insecurity within the UK indicate that some households are cutting down on food and skipping meals on a regular basis. The report found around 5 million people in the UK living in households with children had experienced food insecurity within a month of pandemic lockdowns.
According to the report, parents have struggled significantly with shielding more than 2 million children from food insecurity, and around 200,000 children had been forced to skip meals because their families couldn’t access enough food in the pandemic.
The report suggests part of the problem comes from lack of access to food for children unable to attend school and eat free school meals. At the same time, 17% of parents in NHS worker families had been forced to skip meals or have smaller meals than usual due to food insecurity. A further 9% of these individuals said they haven’t eaten for a full day due to lack of food access.
Food Insecurity Trends and Challenges
13. Healthy food is out of reach for around 3 billion people
Notably, the FAO also found certain kinds of food are more inaccessible than others to regions all over the globe. According to the 2021 report, the higher cost of healthy diets, combined with significant levels of income inequality has prevented around 3 billion people from accessing healthy food.
Though the number of people unable to eat healthy food is slightly lower than it was in 2017, the FAO believes it will increase following the pandemic. Despite this, the FAO also notes that switching public communities towards a healthier diet would contribute significantly to reducing climate change and health costs by 2030.
14. Black and Latino households are affected heavily by food insecurity
Reports on rising levels of food insecurity across the US conducted by the USDA government website found around 38 million Americans were living in households struggling with food insecurity in 2020. However, some households were experiencing more problems than others.
For instance, black (21.7%) and Latin (17.2%) households were more likely to be impacted by issues with food insecurity than white households. Food insecurity rates for these homes during 2020 were triple that of white households for black homes, and double for Latin homes.
Notably, the food insecurity rate was also found to be significantly higher in the South of America (12.3%), followed closely by the Midwest, then the West and Northeast.
15. Food insecurity more than doubled during the pandemic for Americans
Before the pandemic, approximately 10.5% of all US households were dealing with food insecurity issues, according to a USDA government report in 2020. However, when the pandemic hit, the problem worsened significantly. One estimate given by researchers at Northwestern University suggested food insecurity more than doubled due to the economic issues of the crisis.
Around 23% of homes were considered to be affected by food insecurity during 2020. Additionally, further reports from the Brookings Institution found 27.5% of households with children were food insecure. This meant around 13.9 million children were struggling with a lack of access to food.
16. Around 6% of people live in a “food desert”
While there are many factors that can potentially contribute to food insecurity in the world today, the USDA notes that the location of families can be particularly significant. Around 19 million people, or around 6% of the US population, are currently living in “food deserts.” This basically means it’s more difficult for them to access food than the average population.
What’s more, for people living in food deserts, food can be costlier. People in low-income communities can struggle to afford nutritious foods in these areas more than most. For instance, in food deserts, people can pay up to 5% more for simple products like milk.
Notably, according to Feeding America, while food deserts only make up around 63% of counties in the country, they’re responsible for around 87% of counties with the highest food insecurity rates.
17. Conflict is driving food insecurity levels up
(Global Food Crisis Report)
According to the Global Food Crisis report, approximately 193 million people across 53 countries are experiencing levels of “acute food insecurity” as of 2021. The report suggests there are a number of factors increasing food insecurity levels around the globe, including the rising “conflict” levels across communities.
Around 139 million people in approximately 24 countries and territories have been driven into food insecurity issues by conflict. This is an increase from approximately 99 million people in 2020. Even before the war in Ukraine, food insecurity levels were rising. However, the Global Food Crisis report suggests issues prompted by the war, such as a rising cost of fuel, fertilizer, and wheat are making matters significantly worse.
The study also suggests that increased stress on food systems, prompted in part by the Russian and Ukraine war could lead to around 323 million people experiencing acute levels of hunger by the end of 2022. Out of around 55 countries with food crisis levels, 36 were previously dependent on Russian and Ukrainian experts for over 10% of wheat imports in 2021.
18. 40 million people are facing emergency levels of hunger
(World Food Program)
As of 2021, the WFP (World Food Program) estimates around 238 million people are either already acutely food insecure or at high risk of becoming “food insecure.” Almost 40 million people across 36 countries were defined by the report to be facing “emergency” hunger levels.
Of critical concern within the report are the just under half a million people facing starvation and death across four countries: Yemen, South Sudan, Madagascar, and Ethiopia.
Notably, the report also highlighted those high levels of food insecurity are more common in some parts of the world than others. Around 70% of the people facing crisis levels of food insecurity in 2021 were living in 10 specific countries. These countries included Sudan, Pakistan, Ethiopia, The Democratic Republic of Congo, and Afghanistan.
Food Insecurity in the US and Canada Statistics
19. 89.5% of US households were food secure in 2020
A report issued by the USDA Government website in 2020 found around 89.5% (116.35 million) of US households had a reasonable level of food security, whereas 10.5% (13.8 million) of US households were food insecure. Also, 6.6% (8.6 million) of households had very low food security, and 3.9% (5.1 million) had low food security.
While 14.8% of households with children were influenced by food insecurity, in 7.2% of those homes, only adults struggled with disrupted eating. Overall, 38.3 million US individuals experienced food insecurity issues, and 9.4 million adults had significant food insecurity problems.
20. In 2020, 9.6% of Canadians reported some level of food insecurity
(Canadian Community Health Survey)
Food insecurity issues are facing consumers in locations all around the world. According to a cross-sectional Canadian Community Health Survey collecting information between September and December 2020, the pandemic had a significant impact on food insecurity levels in Canada.
According to the report, which looked at the responses of 26,831 respondents over the age of 12, around 9.6% of all Canadians experienced some manner of food insecurity. This is actually slightly lower than the estimate predicted of around 12.6% in 2017 and 2018.
During the second wave of the pandemic, around 1 in 10 Canadians over the age of 12 reported an experience of food insecurity in their household within the previous12 months.
21. 1 in 8 Americans reduced food spending to pay for healthcare in 2021
Notably, food insecurity can be heightened by an increased need to invest money in other areas of life, according to studies. According to a report conducted by the West Health-Gallup brand, around 46 million Americans feel they’re unable to afford quality health care.
Around 1 in 8 Americans, or 12% in total said they had actually reduced their spending on food to pay for healthcare and treatment. Among the people who were earning less than $24,000 per year in the survey, around 25% were cutting back on food to manage healthcare costs.
Among low-income households, it was also common to cut back on utility spending to have more money left aside for care.
22. Households with children in the US have a higher rate of food insecurity
According to a report from the USDA Gov website in 2020, households with children experience food insecurity more often. Rates of food insecurity among families with youngsters were around 14.8% compared to only 8.8% for families without children.
Married couples were generally more able to avoid food insecurity in households with children. What’s more, food insecurity was more common in certain areas. Non-metropolitan areas ranked at 11.6% compared to metropolitan areas at 12.7%.
Rates were particularly high in the south at 12.3%, compared with the Northeast at 9.3% and Midwest at 9.5%.
23. Households with single mothers had the highest levels of food insecurity in the US
According to the USDA study on food security in 2020, households with children headed by a single female had the highest levels of “very low” food security, at 8.2%. Issues were also more significant for men living on their own (5.7%) and women living on their own (5.1%).
From a cultural perspective, households with people who were black, non-Hispanic (8%), and Hispanics (5%), also had a higher rate of very low food security than the national average. Additionally, households with incomes significantly lower (185%) than the poverty line experienced increased levels of food insecurity.
24. 84% of the counties in America where children struggle most with food insecurity are rural
(Save the Children)
According to “Save the Children,” throughout America, a significant portion of the children suffering most with food insecurity and hunger are living in rural and high-poverty locations. 84% of the counties where the most children experience food insecurity are high-poverty rural areas.
Among over 2,600 counties assessed, the counties ranked lowest overall were mostly considered “poor”, “rural”, and concentrated in the south. The highest food insecurity rate in the nation was in Louisiana, East Carroll Parish, according to the report. Here, around 40% of children struggled with hunger, similar to the rates in Peru and Bangladesh. North Dakota, Slope County had the lowest child hunger rates at only 6%.
Food Insecurity in the UK Statistics
25. Nearly 6 million adults struggled to get enough food between September 2020 and February 2021 in the UK
(Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs)
Despite being one of the richest countries in the world, the UK also has some of the highest food poverty rates among any European country. Around 6 million adults and 1.7 million children were unable to access enough food to eat between the months of September 2020 and February 2021, according to the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs Committee
Follow up research into food insecurity in the UK has found the issue may be getting worse. Around 7.3 million adults and 2.6 million children were suffering from food poverty by the month of April in 2022, according to information from the Food Foundation.
At the same time, around 1 in 6 people in the UK used a food bank in March of 2022, indicating an increase in the number of citizens turning towards alternative sources of food.
26. 9% of Scottish adults experienced food insecurity during 2018
A report by Food.gov found approximately 9% of adults in Scotland had experienced food insecurity within the 12 months between 2017 and 2018. According to the report, these adults were worried they would run out of food either as a result of lack of money, or an inability to access food.
The study also found around 6% of all adults surveyed had eaten less than they should have because they were worried about being able to afford enough food. Around 3% of adults in the survey said they had run out of food entirely in the previous 12 months.
27. 7.3 million adults in the UK went without food in 2022
(The Food Foundation)
Data released by the Food Foundation in 2022 found a 57% jump in the number of UK households reducing their food intake or missing meals entirely. In April of 2022, 7.3 million adults said they had gone without food, or were unable to access food within the last month. Of this sample, 2.6 million households were also home to children.
The Food Foundation predicts continued increases in food insecurity are likely throughout the UK in the coming months, as a result of increasing National Insurance payments and Energy bills. 12.8% of households had smaller meals than usual in the report due to food affordability. A further 8.8% of adults said they haven’t eaten despite being hungry.
A total of 4.6% of households (equalling around 2.4 million adults) said they had not eaten for a full day because they couldn’t afford food.
(University of Sheffield)
Studies conducted by the University of Sheffield indicate in one out of every 6 local authorities, the rates of hunger in the UK are over one and a half times greater than the national average. What’s more, in one in every ten local authorities, the rate of hunger is double the national average.
According to data gathered by the University of Sheffield, during January 2021, around 4.2% of adults around the UK reported they had been hungry or unable to eat at least once during the previous month. The data gathered by the research team found local authorities within Humber and Yorkshire were in the top 20% of the areas with the largest number of adults going hungry.
The number of adults going hungry in the UK is lowest within the East of England. Overall, the areas hit worse by higher levels of food insecurity included Wycombe, where about 14% of people were estimated to be hungry, and 30% had low access to food. This region was followed by Hull, where 13% of people were estimated to be hungry, and 1 in 5 struggled with access to food.
This is a tough topic, and as you can see from the statistics above, it affects hundreds of millions of people across the world.
We hope that these food insecurity stats have helped you better understand the scope of this problem, and we encourage you to do what you can to help those in need. You can start by donating food and other items to your local food bank or pantry, volunteering your time there, or even helping to raise awareness about food insecurity by sharing this article with others.
You might even consider starting a community garden in your area!
The key is to get involved and make a difference!
If you have any questions or comments about the statistics in this article, please let us know, and we will respond as soon as possible!
- Action Against Hunger
- Canadian Community Health Survey
- Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs
- Global Food Crisis Report
- Global Report on Food Crises
- North-western University
- Our World in Data
- Save the Children
- The Food Foundation
- University of Sheffield
- World Bank
- World Bank
- World Food Program