WASHINGTON, Nov 15 (Reuters) - The number of U.S. households that reported getting emergency food from a food pantry almost doubled between 2007 and 2009, at the height of the recession, a government report said on Monday.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the number of households jumped to 5.6 from 3.9 million.
"Households also accessed additional assistance through USDA's 15 food and nutrition assistance programs," the article in the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) "Amber Waves" said.
The USDA oversees the government's food stamp program, also known as SNAP or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, for low-income families and other domestic feeding programs like school lunches.
In the 2009 fiscal year, "15.2 million households participated in SNAP in an average month, up from 12.7 million in FY 2008," the article said.
In a separate report, the ERS said the percentage of U.S. households without food security -- access to enough food for an active, healthy life -- at some point during the year hit a record in 2009.
It said more than 50 million people, including at least 17 million children, lived in households uncertain of having or getting enough food at some point because of insufficient money or other material resources.
The 14.7 percent of households without food security at some time in 2009 was up from 14.6 percent in 2008 and 11.1 in 2007, and was the highest since data-keeping on the subject began in 1995, according to the ERS report. (http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/FoodSecurity/)
Some 9 percent of households had low food security, meaning they relied on such strategies as "eating less varied diets, participating in Federal food assistance programs," or getting emergency food help.
About 6 percent had very low food security, meaning they had the normal eating patterns of one or more members disrupted and reduced at times during the year.
For about a quarter of food-insecure households and one-third of those with very low food security, "the occurrence was frequent or chronic," the ERS report said.
It said that among states, food insecurity ranged from a 6.7 percent level in North Dakota to a 17.7 percent high in Arkansas, as measured over a three year period through 2009. Very low food security ranged from North Dakota's 2.6 percent to Alabama's 6.8 percent.