13 Facts that will open your eyes to hunger in the U.S.

Jun 15, 2015 at 12:00 a.m. ET

It's incredible how many Americans are living in hunger in 2015. We see them every day and might not even know they're struggling. Working moms are making choices between feeding themselves or their babies. People working full time are still relying on federal assistance to feed themselves and their families. We can do better.

Here are a few facts to help put the issue in perspective, and a few ways that you can help to end food insecurity in the U.S.

1. 50 million Americans struggle to get enough to eat.

2. In 2013, 5.6 percent of households in America (6.8 million households) had very low food security, meaning their hunger struggle was so severe it reduced their food intake.

3. Households with children are much more likely to have difficulty providing enough food. In 2013, 20 percent of households with children were food insecure, compared to just 12 percent without.

4. The U.S. Census Bureau in 2012 found that 14.5 percent of households in America are food insecure — the term used by the government to identify people who are hungry or at risk of going hungry.

5. Incredibly, 40 percent of food produced in the U.S. is wasted or thrown out. That's about $165 billion worth of food, which researchers say could feed 25 million hungry Americans.

6. Every single county in America is impacted by food insecurity. The seven states with the highest rates of food insecurity are Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and North Carolina.

7. Households with a woman as the primary breadwinner and children are the most likely to experience food insecurity. In fact, 35.1 percent of households with children and a female breadwinner don't have enough to eat.

8. In 2012, there were 5.3 million adults over the age of 60 facing hunger.

9. Not everyone gets help. In 2013, 62 percent of food-insecure households participated in at least one federally-funded food assistance program.

10. Kids might have a hard time finding food outside of school. For every 100 affordable lunch programs available for school children, there are only 87 breakfast programs and four summer food programs.

11. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) might not be enough. By the third week of the month, more than 90 percent of SNAP benefits have already been used.

12. SNAP is the only source of income for 6 million people.

13. Parents feed their kids before themselves. In 2013, 9.6 percent of households reported that only the adults were food insecure.

So what can you to do help fight hunger and food insecurity in America? First, donate and volunteer at a food pantry and other local organizations that feed people. And don't just help around the holidays. People are just as hungry in July as December.

Reducing food waste is another important step to reducing hunger in America. Harvard conducted a study about how the confusion over our system of labeling "sell by" dates on foods is driving additional food waste by consumers. Americans spend between $1,365 and $2,275 per year for a household of four on food that is simply wasted — researchers estimate around $500 of that is due to label confusion. Educate yourself and push for standardized food labeling.

Raising the minimum wage for the 3.8 million Americans earning $7.25 or less per hour would also go a long way to reducing hunger in America and ensuring no one working full time would have to live in poverty or rely on federal assistance to feed their families.

Finally, vote for and advocate on behalf of institutions — like federal grants and funds — and even big businesses which are dedicated to solving the issue of hunger in America.

This post was brought to you by Pacific Foods. Help Pacific put an end to food insecurity. Visit NourishEveryBody.org to learn how.

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