Food security is defined as “access by all members of a household at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life” and includes, at a minimum “ready availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods.” The measure was introduced by the U.S. Census Bureau in 1996 to assess households’ ability to consistently obtain three nutritionally adequate meals a day.
Households can be rated as being food secure, low food secure, or very low food secure. A food insecure household (low food secure or very low food secure) is one that at times during the year was uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food to meet the needs of all their members because they had insufficient money or other resources for food. In very low food security households, normal eating patterns of one or more household members were disrupted and food intake was reduced at times during the year because they had insufficient money or other resources for food. Very low food security corresponds to the common understanding of hunger.
Nationally, 10.2 percent of households were food insecure in 2021, including 3.8 percent that had very low food security, or hunger. Despite the pandemic, the national food insecurity rate was essentially unchanged in 2020 and 2021 compared to 2019, which reflects the effective action taken by Congress to strengthen food support programs. In Oklahoma, 13.8 percent of households experienced food insecurity on average from 2019-2021, which was the 5th highest rate in the nation. This included 4.4 percent of Oklahoma households that experienced very low food security, or hunger, which was the 18th highest rate in the nation.
Food insecurity and very low food security are more prevalent in households with children, especially young children, single-parent households, Black and Hispanic households, and low-income households.