10 percent of Minnesota households worry about putting food on the table

Categories: Food, Lists
Jason Riedy | Flickr Creative Commons
Minnesotans have more access to food than most Americans, but 10 percent of households still struggle to provide enough nourishment.

Here's the good news: Minnesotans have more access to enough food than most Americans. The bad news: 1 in 10 households in the state still worry about putting food on the table.

That's according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report released yesterday, which is full of data about how Americans ate in 2011, and more precisely, how many worried about not being able to afford enough to eat. The report focuses on measuring "food security," or in other words, healthy access to food for every member of a household.

In Minnesota, 10.2 percent of households report lacking the resources to meet this standard between 2009 and 2011. But across the country, the number's far higher: 14.9 percent (17.9 million homes), about the same as the year before.

The data comes from the U.S. Census, which asked respondents first about their concerns -- for instance, whether they agree or disagree with statements like, "We worried our food would run out before we got money to buy more" -- and then about actually going hungry (e.g., "In the last 12 months, did you lose weight because there was not enough money for food?").

Though any food insecurity is dangerous, Minnesota's in good company. The Midwest is the most food-secure of four census regions, and North Dakota leads all the states, with just 7.8 percent of families reporting concern about food. Our other neighbors also have fuller-than-average pantries, with just 12 percent of Iowa households ranking as food insecure, 11.3 percent in Wisconsin, and 12.7 percent in South Dakota.

The South is on the other end of the spectrum, with Arkansas and Mississippi struggling the most: 19.2 percent of households in both states lacked regular access to enough food in 2011.

A less-thorough Gallup poll from the end of August reached similar conclusions, with Minnesota ranking the fifth most food-secure state in the country. In that survey, Mississippi was hit hardest, with one in four households struggling to afford food.

The Dept. of Agriculture report has a few more telling facts about how we eat, including insights into Americans' grocery shopping habits. Here's one: While the average household devotes $47.50 to food per person every week, bachelors -- or in survey-speak, childless men living alone -- shell out $70 to feed themselves weekly, a full $15 more than single women and way more than families. We're going to infer here that ordering delivery pizza every night really is more expensive than cooking for yourself.

Here's a chart from that Gallup poll:

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