Some statistics on poverty & food wastage in America

A box full of recovered vegetables and fruits dug out of the waste of a hypermarket

Poverty in America? One of the richest countries in the world?

Yes, poverty is a reality in America, just as it is for millions of other human beings on the planet. According to the US Census Bureau, 35.9 million people live below the poverty line in America, including 12.9 million children.

This is despite abundance of food resources. Almost 100 billion pounds of food is wasted in America each year. 700 million hungry human beings in different parts of the world would have gladly accepted this food.

Here are some statistics on the nature of poverty and the waste of food and money in America.

-In 2004, requests for emergency food assistance increased by an average of 14 percent during the year, according to a 27-city study by the United States Conference of Mayors.

-Also in this study, it was noted that on average, 20 percent of requests for emergency food assistance have gone unmet in 2004.

-According to the Bread for the World Institute 3.5 percent of U.S. households experience hunger. Some people in these households frequently skip meals or eat too little, sometimes going without food for a whole day. 9.6 million people, including 3 million children, live in these homes.

-America's Second Harvest (, the nation's largest network of food banks, reports that 23.3 million people turned to the agencies they serve in 2001, an increase of over 2 million since 1997. Forty percent were from working families.

33 million Americans continue to live in households that did not have an adequate supply of food. Nearly one-third of these households contain adults or children who went hungry at some point in 2000.

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, March 2002, "Household Food Security in the United States, 2000"

Wasted food in America

-According to America’s Second Harvest, over 41 billion pounds of food have been wasted this year.

-According to a 2004 study from the University of Arizona (UA) in Tucson, on average, American households waste 14 percent of their food purchases.

Fifteen percent of that includes products still within their expiration date but never opened. Timothy Jones, an anthropologist at the UA Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology who led the study, estimates an average family of four currently tosses out $590 per year, just in meat, fruits, vegetables and grain products.

Nationwide, Jones says, household food waste alone adds up to $43 billion, making it a serious economic problem.

- Official surveys indicate that every year more than 350 billion pounds of edible food is available for human consumption in the United States. Of that total, nearly 100 billion pounds - including fresh vegetables, fruits, milk, and grain products - are lost to waste by retailers, restaurants, and consumers.

-“U.S.-Massive Food Waste & Hunger Side by Side” by Haider Rizvi

-According to a 1997 study by US Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service (ERS) entitled "Estimating and Addressing America's Food Losses", about 96 billion pounds of food, or more than a quarter of the 356 billion pounds of edible food available for human consumption in the United States, was lost to human use by food retailers, consumers, and foodservice establishments in 1995.

Fresh fruits and vegetables, fluid milk, grain products, and sweeteners (mostly sugar and high-fructose corn syrup) accounted for two-thirds of the losses. 16 billion pounds of milk and 14 billion pounds of grain products are also included in this loss.

Food that could have gone to millions

According to the US Department of Agriculture, up to one-fifth of America's food goes to waste each year, with an estimated 130 pounds of food per person ending up in landfills. The annual value of this lost food is estimated at around $31 billion But the real story is that roughly 49 million people could have been fed by those lost resources. (For your persona jihad against wastage, see A Citizen's Guide to Food Recovery

(The figures below are 1998 figures)

  • Proportion of Americans living below the poverty level: 12.7 percent (34.5 million people)
  • The average poverty threshold for a family of four: $16,660 in annual income
  • The average poverty threshold for a family ofthree: $13,003 in annual income
  • Poverty rate for metropolitan areas: 12.3 percent
  • Poverty rate forthose living inside central cities: 18.5 percent
  • Poverty rate for those living in the suburbs: 8.7 percent
  • Percentage and number of poor children: 18.9 percent (13.5 million)
  • Children make up 39 percent of the poor and 26 percent of the total population.
  • The poverty rate for children is higher than for any other age group.

Child poverty:

  • -for children under age 6 living in families with a female householder and no husband present: 54.8 percent
  • -for children under age 6 in married-couple families: 10.1 percent
  • Poverty rate for African Americans: 26.1 percent
  • Poverty rate for Asians and Pacific Islanders: 12.5 percent
  • Poverty rate for Hispanics of any race: 25.6 percent
  • Poverty rate fornon-Hispanic whites: 8.2 percent


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I believe USA is a poor country not because people dont have what to eat. I believe USA is poor, because we don't have a strong and original culture, white people are not having family, and Minorities are going to be the future of this country. We are not appreciating the benefits of the mixture of cultures, we are not accepting the Spanish language as our second language, we are not legalizing the immigration, we are not creating a healthy society, instead we are creating intolerance, racism, division among cultures and our new generations are extremely stupid with no identity. Our new young people, dont want to create jobs, they just want to work to obtain a check and get fun over weekends, the issue of the family and values are totally lost in our new generations. And, all these factors, is going to contribute in many ways, that our country is going to be poor in about 30 or 40 years. I know all this is very hard to understand, but in my opinion, our society is very poor, if we compare it to an European society or with a Asian society. The USA is getting stupid!



I was searching for it. Excellent. Vital information. God bless you.



Wow San Saeteurn that is the exact ignorance that keeps these children starving. You are privileged enough to have the foods you desire, yet feel like you deserve it. You should be thanking God that you are blessed enough to eat. Children do not choose to be homeless and starving. They are just born into the wrong families, being blessed should make you grateful and want to help those who cant help themselves and helping those who can realize it. Your half eating stake can be put in the fridge for lunch tomorrow, not thrown away and then you make a new meal and throw half of that away. That is horrible that people are knowingly wasteful and I cant believe people think like that and believe that it makes any sense. Its just sad.


Vallejo Ca

Help our poor neighbours whenever we can. Which is always possible it is a question of taking responsibility as a member of society.Reduce food waste, yes. One way to start on that is to stop subsidising food production and let us all pay the real price of food. It will go up considerably if production subsidies are eliminated. If people in the developed economies have to work longer to pay for their food they may value it more. Hit us wasters where we feel it; in our wallet.


Decatur AR

I see the point that Americans waste a lot of food. But the truth is, what the hell am I suppose to do with that food? Do you expect me to only buy what I want to eat at that very moment in time. Expecting me to go shopping every time I get hungry and only buy just the right amount I need? Well, aside from the fact that I don't have time to do that, it will also cost me more in gas driving back and forth. There will inevitably be left overs. If starving kids on the other side of the world want my half eaten steak, they can have it. But last I checked, I couldn't donate half eaten food. I have cravings and I eat what I want to eat, and I can afford to, so I will continue to. If I get full and can't finish my meals, I will throw it away. If I bought something thinking I wanted to eat it and forgot, then it goes bad in my fridge, I'll throw it away. I earned it, I can do what I want with it. You can't expect me to be able to predict my cravings in the future a week in advance.


Marysville, CA

that's a really poor (pun not intended) argument. Food waste vs. hunger? So what are the hardworking, responsible people supposed to do? Buy less food, or save the scraps? I can do whatever i want with my food, actually, i think i'll go throw away a brand new piece of steak. While you're starving think bout the mistake of having 10 kids when you couldn't even support yourself. (just noticed this is an islamic site, so i doubt my message will get through)



This article has deffinatly showed me that the poverty rate in America and the world it's self is a crisis that needs to be tended to. BUt I have not seen any probable solutuions to fixing this epidemic. Americans are greedy, selfish, maniacle, egotistical and we're way over our heads here. With us just coming out of this recession th0ugh, we all know that the government isn't going to be shelling out a whole lot of money to fix the crisis. WE need to show the children of America these struggles and stop censoring them, so that maybe one day they will greow up knowing these struggles and fix this. Our generation will make little, if any effect on the war on poverty due to the economy of this time.



All I have to say is yes, I do believe we should stop giving to other countrys untill we can get our own problems fixed. I come from a very poor family we lived in a one bedroom trailer and both my parents died before I was 18. I got kicked out of the trailer they took me off of medicaid and foodstamps I had no means to survive. I am doing fine now but there are so many more U.S. children facing the same thing that are younger than I was or even in way worse situations. I feel bad for other countrys and yes we are very watefull but I feel like we need to take on one thing at a time and that is helping the children in America.



I got the info I needed, but I need to know when this was last updated for an essay on poverty in the US.



It's good info, but can someone tell me how much money is spend a year for the poor in the U.S.?



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