Despite Arizona officially recovering from the recession this year, millions of Americans live in households that struggle to put food on the table, according to a report, How Hungry is America?, released by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC).

The report found one in six Americans (16 percent) said in 2015 that there had been times over the past 12 months that they didn’t have enough money to buy food that they or their families needed. This reflects a three-point drop from the 18.9 percent rate in 2013, and the lowest rate since early 2008.

Arizona is tied with Missouri at No. 18 on the list for Worst States in the Nation for Food Hardships, one place ahead of New York.  Mississippi ranks first. Tucson ranks No. 18 for worst major statistical areas.  The combined Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale area ranks No. 63.  Bakersfield, Calif. Is the worst city in the nation for food hardship.

“Progress is great, but families going hungry is still unacceptable,” said Cynthia Zwick, executive director of the Arizona Community Action Association (ACAA).  “Food hardship remains a very serious problem in Arizona and across the country that needs to be addressed quickly, efficiently and effectively on a collaborative basis.”

The report also looks at food hardship in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 109 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs). Despite the improvement, the report reveals that still no corner of the country is immune to hunger.


FRAC outlines recommendations in the report for addressing food hardship, including boosting jobs, wages and public programs for struggling families, such as benefits and eligibility in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) and child nutrition programs.

“How Hungry is America? analyzes survey data collected by Gallup through the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. Gallup measures food hardship with the following question: “Have there been times in the past 12 months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?”

In this report, FRAC defines an answer of “yes” as reflecting “food hardship.” FRAC uses this phrase to avoid confusion with the annual Census Bureau/USDA survey and analysis that produces “food insecurity” numbers, but the concepts are comparable.

Results are based on telephone (landline or cellular) interviews in 2015 for national and state estimates, and in 2014 and 2015 for MSA estimates, with randomly sampled adults, age 18 or older in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Total sample sizes for the food hardship question for 2014 and 2015 were 176,699 and 176,816 respectively. Margins of error were calculated using 90.0 percent confidence intervals.