Reeling under difficult economic times, some 17.4 million US households or 45 million people struggled to find enough food to eat last year due to lack of money, according to latest official statistics.
The number of Americans fighting off hunger stayed level in 2009, though food insecurity rates remain the highest they have been since the US government began keeping track 15 years ago, the US Department of Agriculture said in a report released on Monday.
The report 'Food Security in the United States 2009' found that 17.4 million households in America had difficulty providing enough food due to a lack of resources, about the same as in 2008.
About 14.7% of US households were "food insecure" in 2009, meaning they had difficulty feeding one or more of their members at some point last year due to a lack of financial resources, according to the report. That equates to 17.4 million households total, or roughly 45 million people.
"This report highlights just how critical federal nutrition assistance programmes are for American families in need and the Obama administration is working to provide greater access to this critical safety net during these difficult economic times," USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon said.
This year's rate marked a slight increase in percentage from 2008, when 14.6 per cent of American households had trouble putting food on the table, CNN reported.
The situation was especially dire for more than one-third of those households -- 6.8 million total, equating to 5.7% of all US households -- that the report's four authors classified as having "very low food security." This number, too, changed little in 2009 compared to the previous year.
A lack of resources prompted one or more members of these households to eat much less or otherwise adjust their eating patterns. The typical household in this category struggled with food issues for at least a few days a month over seven months of the year, the report said.
"We anticipate that food security will improve as the economy improves but in the near-term, without these benefits, many families would face far more severe problems getting the nutritious food they need," Concannon said.
Households headed by single parents were more likely to struggle with food insecurity than those with two parents at home, while hunger-related issues were more prevalent among African-American and Hispanic households than white ones, the study found. Access to food was also more common in large cities than in rural areas, exurbs or suburbs.