Food Insecurity Indicators

USDA defines food secure households as those who have “access, at all times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members.”  With the downturn in the economy since 2008 USDA reports a sharp increase in the proportion of US households they classify as “food insecure.”  In 2006, USDA estimates that slightly less than 11 percent of US households were food insecure.  By 2009 there were an estimated 14.7 percent of American households in the food insecure category.  USDA also documents an increase in SNAP (food stamps), growing from about 26 million in 2006 to more than 40 million in 2010, an increase of nearly 50%.

On average, over the 2007-2009 time period, 13.5 percent of American households were classified as food insecure.  The comparable percentages were somewhat lower in Minnesota (10.5 percent) and Wisconsin (11.4 percent).  It is not surprising that the incidence of food insecurity in these relatively prosperous states is lower than for the U.S. as a whole.  Similarly, the relative prosperity of the counties in St. Croix River valley means that fewer of their households are food insecure than is the case for their respective states.  Despite this, a survey done by the Survey Research Center at UW-River Falls found that among families in poverty in western Wisconsin:

  • 31 percent could not afford to provide their household with three meals per day at least once in the past year. 
  • More than half of the respondents could afford to buy and eat fresh fruits and vegetables every week
  • 45 percent used a food pantry or food shelf to supplement their groceries


These counties have also seen substantial increases in the use of SNAP (food stamps) in recent years.


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