UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN River Falls

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."  During the recent recession the USDA reported a 31% increase in the proportion of "food insecure" US households in the one-year period between 2008 and 2009. Household food insecurity rates at the national level have declined to 12.7% in 2015 from 14.9% in 2011. The current rate is still above the pre-recession level of 11.1% in 2007.  

USDA also documents an increase in SNAP (food stamps), growing from about 26 million in 2006 to more than 44 million in 2016, an increase of 73%.  Despite the economic recovery that has been underway for at least 5 years, SNAP demand has remained at historically high levels.  This reflects the fact that wage rates and underemployment have only started to improve in late 2016.

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 for the Western Wisconsin Community Action Agency in 2016 found that among families in poverty in western Wisconsin:

  • 27 percent could not afford to provide their household with three meals per day at least once in the past year. 
  • 40% of the respondents could not afford to buy and eat fresh fruits and vegetables every week
  • 34 percent used a food pantry or food shelf to supplement their groceries

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