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New CDF Report: More Than 13 Million Children Face Food Insecurity


WASHINGTON, June 2 -- In recognition of National Hunger Awareness Day on June 7th, the Children’s Defense Fund has joined a nationwide effort to bring attention to the critical issue of millions of Americans who experience “food insecurity.”

Today, the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) released a report on the effects of child hunger and food insecurity, which is defined as the lack of consistent access to enough food to ensure active, healthy living. CDF’s report shows that hunger is leaving many of America’s families and children behind, with effects that range from health problems to academic achievement delays and social difficulties.

According to the most recent figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 13.3 million American children were food insecure in 2003; of these, 420,000 lived in households where someone had to go hungry.

Overall, 36.3 million Americans experienced food insecurity in 2003, 1.4 million more than in 2002, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“As the wealthiest nation in the world, it is unconscionable that we have increasing rates of food insecurity among children,” said Richelle Friedman, senior program associate for CDF’s Family Income Division. “The tragedy of child hunger is the huge toll it exacts on children and our nation. Children who come from food insecure homes or who are hungry are more likely to get sick, have problems in school, experience trouble getting along with their peers, and show higher levels of anxious behaviors. As these children mature into adulthood, our society will feel the effects of their deprivation in the form of higher rates of school failure, greater health care costs, and lost workforce productivity.”

The CDF report includes state-by-state breakdowns of the percentage of households with food insecurity and hunger. Among the findings are:

-- 18 percent of children were food insecure in 2003

-- Low-income families spent 25 percent of their after-tax earnings on food

-- 3.5 million families had to use a food pantry at least once during 2003; 46.8 percent of these families also received food stamps.

-- 28.5 percent of African American and 28.1 percent of Hispanic households with children experienced food insecurity, compared with 11.3 percent of White households

Despite four consecutive years in which food insecurity has increased, Congress passed a FY 2006 budget resolution which calls for the Agriculture Committees to cut $3 billion over five years from programs under their jurisdiction. Food Stamps and child nutrition entitlement programs are particularly vulnerable to cuts.

The budget also cuts domestic discretionary spending by $24 billion in FY 2006. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) could be reduced because of this cut. Without this crucial assistance, food insecurity will increase among the most vulnerable American families, putting low- income babies and children at risk for the many negative health effects of malnutrition.

CDF is calling on the Bush Administration and Congress to expand food and nutrition programs and to invest in programs that provide economic supports for low-income families.

“While millions of children in working families do not have enough to eat, action by Congress threatens to cut programs like WIC, Food Stamps and the child nutrition programs that provide a critical source of nutritious meals,” Friedman said. "Now is not the time to pull the rug out from under families who need not only food assistance, but help in affording other basic necessities of life such as housing and medical coverage.

“With the approach of National Hunger Awareness Day, we call on President Bush and the United States Congress to commit the resources needed to ensure that no American child goes to bed hungry.”

To see the full report on how food insecurity and hunger affect children, go to CDF’s Web site at


The mission of the Children’s Defense Fund is to Leave No Child Behind and to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.


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