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USDA: More families had trouble buying food they need amid recession [Updated]

November 15, 2010 |  2:55 pm

Food bank photo As the country’s economic woes dragged on last year, 17.4 million U.S. families –- or about 15% of all households -– didn’t have enough money to feed themselves at some point in 2009, according to a new U.S. Department of Agriculture report.

The report, released Monday, also found that 6.8 million of these households had continuing financial problems that forced them to miss meals or not eat regularly. As many as 1 million of the people in those homes who went hungry were children.

The number of so-called “food insecure” households, those that had a tough time providing enough food for their members, stayed somewhat steady from 2008 to 2009. But that number was more than triple compared with 2006, before the recession and double-digit unemployment.

Among other things, researchers said in the report that federal nutrition assistance programs have seen dramatic participation growth, with major programs at or near record levels of participation. Between 2008 and 2009, they saw that:

  • The average monthly participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program increased by about 5.3 million people, or 18.7%;
  • One million more low-income children received free or reduced price lunches on an average school day, a 5.4% increase;
  • More than 400,000 more low-income women, infants and children participated in a USDA nutrition program in an average month, 4.8% increase.

For a state-by-state breakdown of the findings, read the report here. Read The Times' story here.

-- P.J. Huffstutter

Photo: Volunteers packing cans of evaporated milk into boxes at the San Francisco Food Bank. Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

[Updated at 7:24 p.m.: An earlier version of this post said that, according to the report, 5.6 million households had continuing financial problems that forced them to miss meals or not eat regularly. The report stated that 6.8 million had their food intake reduced and normal eating patterns were disrupted due to limited resources.]