Report finds that millions of Americans struggle to put food on the table.
A federal report released Monday reveals that millions of American families are struggling to put enough food on their tables.
The report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture says 17 million American families had trouble putting enough food on their tables in 2009.
That's roughly 15 percent of all U.S. households.
"It's a very shocking and compelling figure," says USDA Undersecretary of Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon.
"People just don't have the resources to buy the basics, the essentials," adds Dr. James H. Johnson of the University of North Carolina.
Johnson and other experts believe the number of "food-insecure" American families is tied directly to this country's troubled economy.
"In this current recession, more people are going without a jobs for a longer period of time," Johnson points out.
While the report indicates the number of "food insecure homes" remained roughly the same as in 2008, that number has more than tripled since 2006.
Concannon says USDA-funded food programs have helped to stabilize the number of America's "food-insecure" families.
"We're seeing record numbers of Americans turning to programs like the SNAP or what used to be called the Food Stamp Program, the supplemental nutrition program," he says.
Families living in large cities and in rural areas are the most affected.
The USDA calls its food assistance programs a "safety net against hunger" and Concannon says his organization anticipates that the country's number of food secure families will improve as the economy improves.
The findings come from a survey of about 46,000 households on a variety of hunger-related issues.
The study also shows that 5.6 million households with as many as one-million children had ongoing financial problems that forced them to miss meals regularly.