Facts on Hunger in D.C
One in eight District households is struggling against hunger, and while the nation's federal nutrition programs have a wide reach in Washington, D.C., too many adults and children continue to slip through the nutrition safety net.
The ability to obtain enough food for an active, healthy life is the most basic of human needs. Without access to adequate healthy food, people are likely to be hungry, undernourished, and in poor health, with high rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other nutrition-fueled health problems.
Facts on Hunger: Food Insecurity and Food Hardship
“Food insecurity” is a term defined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that indicates that the availability of nutritionally adequate and safe food, or the ability to acquire such food, is limited or uncertain for a household. USDA also reports on “very low food security”, which occurs when one or more people in the household were hungry over the course of the year because they couldn’t afford enough food. USDA monitors the extent and severity of food insecurity in U.S. households through an annual, nationally representative survey. According to USDA's report: Household Food Security in the United States, 2011
- 12.6 percent of all households in the District of Columbia were food insecure in 2009-2011. That's an increase from 2005 - 2007, when 11.9 percent of all households were considered to be food insecure. (The change was not statistically significant.)
- Among the 12.6 percent of District of Columbia households struggling with hunger, 4.4 percent were considered to have "very low food security." People that fall into this USDA category had more severe problems, experiencing deeper hunger and cutting back or skipping meals on a more frequent basis for both adults and children.
“Food Hardship” is a term defined by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). A respondent is defined to have experienced food hardship if he or she answers yes to the following question: “Have there been times in the past twelve months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?” This question is asked as part of a survey conducted by Gallup through the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index project, and provided to FRAC to be analyzed. Gallup has been interviewing 1,000 households per day almost every day since January 2, 2008 for this project. Through 2010, more than 1,000,000 people have been asked a series of questions on a range of topics including emotional health, physical health, healthy behavior, work environment and access to basic services.
Note: Gallup’s question is very similar to one of the questions asked by the federal government in its annual survey of food security (see above) – this similarity provides a basis for concluding that the two questions are measuring food insecurity in quite similar ways. And while the Census Bureau/USDA’s additional questions allow a more nuanced view of the depth of food insecurity, the very large Gallup sample allows a closer, more localized and more recent look at food hardship. USDA’s data does not go beyond the state level; even at the state level, they use three-year averages. Gallup’s data take us through 2010 and provide data from the national level to congressional districts. According to FRAC's Food Hardship reports:
- Nearly 19 percent of respondents in D.C. experienced food hardship (reported not having enough money in the past twelve months to buy food for themselves or their family) in 2010.
- In 2009-2010, 37.4 percent of households with children in the District of Columbia said they were unable to afford enough food. This is the worst rate in the nation. The food hardship rate for households without children drops to 14.9 percent.
Facts on Food Access - Access to affordable healthy food is a challenge for many District residents.
- Along with hunger, lack of access to healthy food contributes to obesity and poor health outcomes.
- Wards 7 and 8, which have the District's highest poverty rates, also have the city's highest obesity rates and are home to large "food deserts."
- Of the city's 43 full-service grocery stores, only two are located in Ward 4, four in Ward 7, and three in Ward 8. By contrast, Ward 3 - the highest-income Ward - has eleven full-service stores.
- Few of the city's 30 farmers' markets are located east of the Anacostia River.
- Read more in our 2010 report When Healthy Food is Out of Reach (pdf).
Facts on Federal Nutrition Programs in the District
The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) Data Tool
...allows users to access FRAC’s database of demographic and nutrition program measures to analyze how states are using the key public nutrition programs to reach more people in need and to provide more adequate benefits. Users may compare up to three years of data in any state. The tool is designed to provide basic data in a single source, and is the same information that is published in FRAC’s State of the States report. Online information is updated quarterly for any new annual statistics that have been reported in that timeframe.
To use this tool to get information in the District of Columbia, simply select “District of Columbia” from the state drop-down menu, select the years of interest, and click “Compare”.
This tool allows the user to access a variety of statistics that are grouped under the following headings:
- Income and poverty
- Food insecurity among households (based on three-year averages)
- School Breakfast Program
- National School Lunch Program
- Summer Nutrition Program
- SNAP/Food Stamp Program
- Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
- Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)
- The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)
- Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP)
- Minimum wage
- Earned income Tax Credit (EITC)
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
In addition, follow these links to:
- Monthly WIC data from USDA.
- Monthly Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP—formerly known as Food Stamps) data from FRAC.
Contact D.C. Hunger Solutions for other data inquiries.