10 Million Americans of All Ages Do not Get Enough to Eat

For Release: Tuesday, March 24, 1998

Contact: NCHS Press Office (301) 458-4800
E-mail: paoquery@cdc.gov

Ten million Americans, including almost 4 million children, do not get enough to eat, according to new findings from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey reported in the March issue of the American Journal of Public Health. The survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that some 4 percent of Americans live in families who say that they do not have enough to eat–either sometimes or often.

Americans most at risk of food insufficiency were children and the poor. About 6 percent of children and 14 percent of America’s low-income population reported that they do not have enough food to eat. Among those Americans who report not having enough to eat are 4.5 million non-Hispanic whites, 2.4 million non-Hispanic blacks, and 2.4 million Mexican Americans. One in four low-income Mexican Americans do not get enough to eat.

The survey found that food insufficiency was not limited to the unemployed. Over half of those who do not get enough to eat live in families where at least one member is employed. Food insufficiency is not limited to single mother families. Although the risk of food insufficiency is greater for those in families headed by single mothers, more Americans who do not get enough to eat live in families of married couples with children than in other types of families.

Americans without health insurance are twice as likely to say that they do not get enough food to eat as those who have health insurance. Many low-income uninsured Americans may have to make a choice between paying for health care and paying for food.

Most of those who reported not getting enough to eat cited lack of money, food stamps, or WIC vouchers as the reason. In addition, 9 percent of those who reported food insufficiency also gave lack of transportation as the reason.

“Food Insufficiency Exists in the United States: Results from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey,” by Katherine Alaimo, Cornell University; Ronette Briefel, National Center for Health Statistics; and Edward Frongillo, Jr., and Christine Olson both of Cornell University examines the prevalence of food insufficiency by a variety of sociodemographic characteristics including race and ethnicity, age, family size and composition, family income, education of head of household, region of residence, food stamp program participation, and health insurance coverage.

The Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the most comprehensive health examination survey in the U.S., was conducted from 1988-94. The survey interviewed and examined over 30,000 Americans chosen to represent the Nation’s civilian noninstitutionalized and nonhomeless population. In addition to data on food insufficiency, the survey collected data on dietary patterns, food and nutrient intake as well as such nutrition-related data as serum cholesterol levels and overweight.


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