Oct 6, 2017

One in five American children live with hunger

The United States has one of the worst rates of child hunger among high-income countries. A recent UNICEF analysis puts it in perspective: About 20% of American children live in food-insecure households, meaning they lack access to safe and nutritious foods.

The big picture: Child hunger is a worldwide problem, with some of the world's poorest countries in Africa reporting rates upwards of 70%. But among wealthy nations as defined by the World Bank, the United States has the fourth worst child hunger problem, followed only by Lithuania, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay.

Note: Food insecurity data represents households with children under age 15 that lacked access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food in 2014-15; Data: UNICEF; World Bank; Chart: Chris Canipe / Axios

Key takeaways:

  • The study measured how many children in each country live in households that cannot provide access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food.
  • South Sudan and Liberia, both in the lowest income category, have the highest rates of child hunger at 92% and 89% respectively.
  • Japan has a rate of only 1%, which is the lowest among wealthy countries and overall.
  • The United States is the richest country, in terms of GDP per capita, among the high-income countries with the top five steepest rates of child hunger.
  • Countries with lower rates of child hunger than the United States include Vietnam (18%), Myanmar (17%) and Ukraine (15%), all of which fall into the lower-middle income category.

The bottom line: "You can throw food at the problem, and it will seemingly go away," but that's not a sustainable solution, John Ricketts of the nonprofit group Feed the Children told Axios. Hunger is tied to education and economic mobility, and the public and private sectors need to find solutions that break cycles of generational poverty in the United States to tackle child hunger, he said.

Go deeper