USDA report says nearly 15% of U.S. homes worry about food

Nearly 15% of American households are "food insecure"--meaning they had to worry about having enough food to eat last year, used government or community food programs, or sometimes went hungry, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Nationwide, 14.7 percent of households were food insecure in 2009, which translates to 50.2 million people, including 17.2 million children. Nationally, 5.2 percent of those homes reported "very low food security," meaning they had to involuntarily skip meals or reduce the amount they ate because they couldn't afford food.

Here's more on how Minnesota fared in the report, and how the state compared to the national average.

The annual study surveyed households across the U.S. in 2009, asking residents questions such as "In the last 12 months, did you ever not eat for a whole day because there wasn't enough money for food?"

In Minnesota, 10.5 percent of households (or nearly 223,000 homes) reported some food insecurity, which included worrying about having enough money for food, having to buy cheaper or less nutritious food, or using food stamps or food banks to make ends meet. Among those homes, 4.1 percent reported having to actually skip meals or eat less.

Minnesota's food anxiety has gotten worse in the last two years. In 2007, the state's food insecurity percentage was 9.5 percent.

Despite the worrisome numbers, Minnesota fared better than the 14.7 national average. Minnesota's neighbor, North Dakota, ranked best in the nation by far in food security, with just 6.7 percent of households reporting that they worried about food. Arkansas (17.7 percent) and Texas (17.4 percent) had the highest rates of food insecurity.

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