WASHINGTON — The number of Americans who lacked reliable access to sufficient food shot up last year to its highest point since the government began surveying in 1995, the Agriculture Department reported on Monday.
In its annual report on hunger, the department said that 17 million American households, or 14.6 percent of the total, “had difficulty putting enough food on the table at times during the year.” That was an increase from 13 million households, or 11.1 percent, the previous year.
The results provided a more human sense of the costs of a recession that has officially ended but continues to take a daily toll on households; it describes the plight not of a faceless General Motors or A.I.G. but of families with too little food on their children’s plates.
Indeed, while children are usually shielded from the worst effects of deprivation, many more were affected last year than the year before. The number of households in which both adults and children experienced “very low food security” rose by more than half, to 506,000 in 2008 from 323,000 in 2007, according to the report.