Washington, D.C. Has Worst Food Hardship Rate in the Nation for Households with Children, Survey Finds

Contact: Colleen Barton Sutton, cbsutton@frac.org, 202-640-1121

WASHINGTON, Sept. 20, 2016 — Despite an improving economy, far too many children in the nation’s capital still live in households that struggle against hunger, according to a Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) analysis of Gallup-Healthways Well-Being surveys conducted in 2014 and 2015. The report, Food Hardship in America: Households with Children Especially Hard Hit (pdf), finds one in four households with children in the District experience food hardship, more than double the rate for households without children.

“It’s a disgrace that children in the capital of the wealthiest nation on earth struggle the most against hunger,” said Beverley Wheeler, director of D.C. Hunger Solutions. “Hunger has serious consequences for anyone, but children are particularly vulnerable as their physical and cognitive development is at risk. These findings are simply unacceptable, especially since there are solutions to end hunger now.”

Research shows that participation in federal nutrition programs, such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and meals provided during child care, school, afterschool, and summer, mitigates hunger and supports children’s health and learning.

“The city has made progress in increasing children’s access to healthy foods, but we still have a long way to go,” added Wheeler. “We must take full advantage of all the available nutrition programs so every child across the District has access to the nutrition they need to thrive.”

Nationally, the food hardship rate for households with children (19.2 percent) is considerably higher than the food hardship rate for households without children (14.2 percent).

D.C. Hunger Solutions is an initiative of FRAC. In its A Plan of Action to End Hunger in America (pdf), FRAC recommends a policy path for the nation to reduce the suffering and unnecessary costs caused by struggles with hunger, poverty, and reduced opportunity, including: higher employment rates, more full-time jobs, and better wages and benefits; stronger income supports through unemployment insurance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), refundable tax credits, and other means; and stronger nutrition programs.

About the Gallup Survey

The question Gallup asks is, “Have there been times in the past 12 months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?” That question is part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey, which also asked respondents how many children lived in their household. In 2015, 176,313 respondents answered these questions, while 176,212 answered them in 2014. FRAC counts “yes” answers to the former question as evidence of food hardship.

In June 2016, FRAC published an analysis (pdf) of answers to Gallup’s survey in 2015 reporting national, state, and metropolitan statistical area (MSA) rates of food hardship.

In this latest analysis, FRAC looks at the data separately for households with children and households without children.

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D.C. Hunger Solutions, founded in 2002 as an initiative of the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), works to create a hunger-free community and improve the nutrition, health, economic security, and well-being of low-income District residents.