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Southern States Struggle the Most With Not Having Enough to Eat

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Food is one of the basic human needs, yet a surprisingly high percentage of Americans struggle with food insecurity.

According to the latest LendingTree study, a little over 1 in 10 (10.8%) American adults didn’t have enough to eat in the previous week — a figure that rises for those in the South.

In addition to going over our findings, stick around for tips on utilizing your credit card to help extend your grocery budget.

  • Just over 1 in 10 (10.8%) American adults report not having enough to eat in the previous week, down slightly from 10.9% during the same period in 2023. Across all food insecure respondents in 2024, 89.8% say they couldn’t afford to purchase food and 10.8% say they couldn’t get to the store due to a lack of mobility, health or transportation.
  • Texas has the highest rate of food insecure residents. 15.2% of Texans report sometimes or often not having enough food to eat in the previous week, followed by Tennessee (14.3%) and Louisiana (13.7%). On the other hand, Hawaii (5.3%), North Dakota (6.4%) and Minnesota (6.9%) report the lowest rates of food insecurity.
  • Between April 2023 and April 2024, Wyoming saw the sharpest increase in adults who didn’t have enough to eat in the prior week, jumping 83.6%. New Hampshire and Vermont followed, with jumps of 74.4% and 66.7%, respectively. Conversely, food insecurity rates dropped the most in Mississippi (44.1%), North Dakota (41.3%) and Hawaii (39.1%). Overall, rates rose in 24 states and fell in 27 states.
  • Food scarcity may be correlated with mental health struggles. Of those who reported not having enough to eat in April 2024, 66.4% also reported feeling nervous, anxious or on edge at least several days, while 65.6% reported uncontrollable worrying, 60.2% reported feeling down, depressed or hopeless, and 57.9% reported little interest or pleasure in doing things.

As Americans continue to grapple with high food prices, some are having trouble making ends meet. In April 2024, 10.8% of adults said they didn’t have enough to eat in the previous week. That’s down slightly from 10.9% during the same period in 2023.

According to LendingTree chief credit analyst Matt Schulz, that figure isn’t entirely surprising. “In a country as wealthy as ours, it doesn’t seem right that 1 in 10 adults don’t have enough to eat in a given week. However, it’s the unfortunate reality faced by millions of Americans today.”

Notably, at least 1 in 3 people who reported the following conditions or issues also reported not having enough food either some or a lot of the time:

  • Inability to remember or concentrate at all (79.1%)
  • Complete blindness (69.1%)
  • Inability to understand or be understood (52.7%)
  • Unable to do any self-care (49.6%)
  • Total deafness (44.7%)
  • Inability to work because of no transportation (42.1%)
  • A lot of difficulty understanding or being understood (41.7%)
  • A lot of difficulty with self-care (39.5%)

Looking closer at the demographics of those reporting food insecurity, 55.3% of food insecure Americans are women, while 44.7% are men. The gender pay gap likely plays a role here. As of 2024, women earn 17% less than men, per Payscale, though that gap may be significantly larger depending on various factors, including race, age, parental status, education, industry and location.

Meanwhile, 37.8% have a GED diploma or high school degree as their highest educational attainment, and 30.4% have some college or an associate degree.

Worryingly, 69.3% of food insecure respondents didn’t experience a loss of income over the last four weeks, and 52.1% reported being employed in the last seven days — indicating that more than half of Americans who can’t make ends meet are employed. That comes as 75.6% of food insecure Americans make less than $75,000 a year in household income. And 31.5% make less than $25,000.

Breakdown of food insecure respondents by demographic
Age% of those reporting food insecurity
18 to 249.0%
25 to 3934.2%
40 to 5432.8%
55 to 6414.4%
65 and above9.5%
Gender% of those reporting food insecurity
Men44.7%
Women55.3%
Race% of those reporting food insecurity
Hispanic or Latino25.8%
White45.7%
Black18.3%
Asian3.5%
2 or more races6.6%
Education% of those reporting food insecurity
Less than high school18.7%
High school or GED37.8%
Some college/associate degree30.4%
Bachelor’s degree or higher13.1%
Marital status% of those reporting food insecurity
Married37.5%
Widowed4.4%
Divorced/separated21.4%
Never married36.2%
Didn’t report0.5%
Household size% of those reporting food insecurity
1 person in the household11.0%
2 people in the household22.4%
3 people in the household19.8%
4 people in the household15.0%
5 people in the household12.2%
6 people in the household8.9%
7 or more people in the household10.8%
Presence of children younger than 18% of those reporting food insecurity
Children in household44.2%
No children55.8%
Household income% of those reporting food insecurity
Less than $25,00031.5%
$25,000 to $34,99914.6%
$35,000 to $49,99915.5%
$50,000 to $74,99914.0%
$75,000 to $99,9995.1%
$100,000 to $149,9993.8%
$150,000 to $199,9990.9%
$200,000 and above1.4%
Didn’t report13.3%

Source: LendingTree analysis of U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey, conducted April 2 to 29, 2024. Note: Totals may not equal 100% due to rounding.

What’s to blame for food insecurity? Across food insecure respondents, 89.8% say they couldn’t afford to buy food — the top reason. This comes as food spending has risen significantly. Between 2021 and 2022 alone, U.S. household food spending jumped 28.0%, according to a LendingTree study, rising from an average of $318.69 a week to $407.78.

Meanwhile, 10.8% of food insecure respondents say they couldn’t get to the store due to a lack of mobility, health or transportation. (More on this at the state level soon.)

Residents in Southern states are the most likely to report food insecurity. Texas leads, with 15.2% of residents reporting sometimes or often not having enough food to eat in the previous week. Tennessee (14.3%) and Louisiana (13.7%) round out the top three.

Why do these states rank highest? Income and poverty likely play the biggest role here. In Texas, the median household income is $73,035. While that’s not particularly low, 14.0% of residents are in poverty. Across the U.S., the median household income is $75,149, while 11.5% are in poverty. Meanwhile:

  • In Tennessee, the median household income is $64,035 and 13.3% of residents are in poverty.
  • In Louisiana, the median household income is $57,852 and 18.6% of residents are in poverty.

States where people report not having enough food in the previous week the most

RankStateSometimes not enough to eatOften not enough to eatTotal
N/AU.S.8.0%2.8%10.8%
1Texas11.0%4.2%15.2%
2Tennessee9.9%4.4%14.3%
3Louisiana10.6%3.1%13.7%

Source: LendingTree analysis of U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey, conducted April 2 to 29, 2024.

On the other hand, Hawaii has the lowest rate of food insecurity, with just 5.3% of residents reporting not having enough to eat, followed by North Dakota (6.4%) and Minnesota (6.9%). Unlike the top-ranking states, those with lower food insecurity generally have higher median incomes and lower poverty rates. To break that down:

  • In Hawaii, the median household income is $94,814 and 10.2% of residents are in poverty.
  • In North Dakota, the median household income is $73,959 and 11.5% of residents are in poverty.
  • In Minnesota, the median household income is $84,313 and 9.6% of residents are in poverty.

While affordability is the top reason for food scarcity in every state, residents in Wyoming (99.6%) are the most likely to cite this reason, followed by Mississippi (97.0%) and Oklahoma (96.7%). On the other hand, lack of affordability is least present in food insecure residents in the District of Columbia (69.0%), New Jersey (72.1%) and Idaho (79.5%).

Percentage of food insecure people who couldn’t afford to purchase food (top by state)

RankStateTotal
N/AU.S.89.8%
1Wyoming99.6%
2Mississippi97.0%
3Oklahoma96.7%

Source: LendingTree analysis of U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey, conducted April 2 to 29, 2024.

Lack of transportation, mobility or health limitations play a significantly higher role in some states. In Hawaii, 38.1% of food insecure residents cite this reason for their food insecurity — considerably higher than the 10.8% across the U.S. who say similarly. Food insecure residents in Minnesota (21.8%) and New Jersey (20.2%) are also more likely to cite this reason.

Percentage of food insecure people who couldn’t get to a store due to transportation, mobility or health limitations (top by state)

RankStateTotal
N/AU.S.10.8%
1Hawaii38.1%
2Minnesota21.8%
3New Jersey20.2%

Source: LendingTree analysis of U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey, conducted April 2 to 29, 2024.

Meanwhile, the inability to get to a food store was a factor for only 2.2% in Wyoming — the lowest by state — followed by Virginia (3.5%) and Idaho (both 3.5%).

Full rankings

States where people report not having enough food in the previous week the most/least

RankStateSometimes not enough to eatOften not enough to eatTotal
1Texas11.0%4.2%15.2%
2Tennessee9.9%4.4%14.3%
3Louisiana10.6%3.1%13.7%
4Georgia10.6%2.8%13.4%
5Florida9.9%3.2%13.1%
6West Virginia8.6%4.3%12.9%
7Missouri7.9%4.5%12.4%
8Wyoming7.0%5.3%12.3%
9Alabama9.2%3.0%12.2%
10Oklahoma8.5%3.5%12.0%
10Nevada8.7%3.3%12.0%
12Arizona8.4%3.4%11.8%
13Indiana8.5%3.1%11.6%
13Michigan8.4%3.2%11.6%
15New Mexico8.5%2.7%11.2%
16Arkansas8.0%2.9%10.9%
17New Jersey8.3%2.4%10.7%
17Ohio8.2%2.5%10.7%
17Connecticut8.1%2.6%10.7%
20Mississippi7.0%3.5%10.5%
21Kentucky7.7%2.7%10.4%
22District of Columbia6.8%3.5%10.3%
22Maryland7.7%2.6%10.3%
24Idaho7.9%2.2%10.1%
24Washington5.8%4.3%10.1%
26Alaska7.5%2.5%10.0%
26Vermont8.3%1.7%10.0%
26Wisconsin8.1%1.9%10.0%
29Virginia8.4%1.4%9.8%
30Nebraska7.8%1.9%9.7%
31Massachusetts7.1%2.5%9.6%
32North Carolina6.8%2.7%9.5%
33California7.4%2.0%9.4%
34South Carolina7.0%2.3%9.3%
35Delaware6.9%2.3%9.2%
35Pennsylvania6.8%2.4%9.2%
37New York6.8%2.3%9.1%
37Rhode Island6.2%2.9%9.1%
39Iowa6.3%2.6%8.9%
40South Dakota4.9%3.4%8.3%
40Kansas5.2%3.1%8.3%
42Colorado7.0%1.2%8.2%
42Utah6.2%2.0%8.2%
44Illinois5.6%2.4%8.0%
44Maine6.4%1.6%8.0%
44Montana6.3%1.7%8.0%
47Oregon6.2%1.6%7.8%
48New Hampshire5.6%1.9%7.5%
49Minnesota4.3%2.6%6.9%
50North Dakota3.5%2.9%6.4%
51Hawaii4.5%0.8%5.3%

Source: LendingTree analysis of U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey, conducted April 2 to 29, 2024.

Percentage of food insecure people who couldn’t afford to purchase food (by state)

RankStateTotal
1Wyoming99.6%
2Mississippi97.0%
3Oklahoma96.7%
4Arizona96.5%
5Florida96.3%
6Colorado95.4%
6Connecticut95.4%
8South Dakota94.7%
9North Carolina94.6%
10Utah94.4%
11Louisiana94.3%
12Hawaii94.2%
13Texas92.9%
14Tennessee92.4%
15Nebraska92.2%
16Ohio92.0%
16Wisconsin92.0%
18Minnesota91.9%
18Virginia91.9%
20Nevada91.5%
21California91.4%
22Delaware91.1%
22Rhode Island91.1%
24Oregon90.9%
25Pennsylvania90.2%
26West Virginia89.9%
27Washington89.8%
28New Hampshire89.7%
29Alaska88.5%
29South Carolina88.5%
31Maryland88.4%
32Illinois87.7%
32Montana87.7%
34Kentucky86.7%
35Michigan86.6%
36Kansas86.4%
37Maine86.3%
38Vermont85.4%
39Alabama85.3%
40Massachusetts84.5%
41New York84.0%
42Iowa83.6%
43Missouri83.5%
44Georgia82.7%
45North Dakota82.1%
46Arkansas81.9%
46New Mexico81.9%
48Indiana79.9%
49Idaho79.5%
50New Jersey72.1%
51District of Columbia69.0%

Source: LendingTree analysis of U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey, conducted April 2 to 29, 2024.

Percentage of food insecure people who couldn’t get to a store due to transportation, mobility or health limitations (by state)

RankStateTotal
1Hawaii38.1%
2Minnesota21.8%
3New Jersey20.2%
4Colorado19.9%
5New Mexico19.5%
6Utah19.4%
7Wisconsin19.2%
8Massachusetts19.0%
9Rhode Island18.2%
10North Carolina16.9%
11Georgia16.8%
12Alabama16.7%
13Connecticut15.9%
14Vermont15.8%
15North Dakota15.3%
16Kentucky14.5%
17Indiana12.7%
18Maryland12.4%
18Michigan12.4%
18South Carolina12.4%
21Missouri12.3%
21Oklahoma12.3%
23Oregon12.0%
24Ohio11.6%
25District of Columbia11.1%
26Delaware10.7%
27Tennessee10.5%
28Texas10.3%
29West Virginia9.8%
30California9.2%
31Arkansas8.9%
32Alaska8.8%
33Illinois8.7%
34Montana8.5%
35Pennsylvania8.2%
36New York7.4%
37Kansas7.2%
37New Hampshire7.2%
37Washington7.2%
40Iowa7.0%
41Nevada6.8%
42Mississippi6.6%
43Nebraska6.4%
44Louisiana6.3%
45Arizona6.0%
46Maine4.4%
47South Dakota4.3%
48Florida3.8%
49Idaho3.5%
49Virginia3.5%
51Wyoming2.2%

Source: LendingTree analysis of U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey, conducted April 2 to 29, 2024.

Wyoming saw the biggest increase in adults who didn’t have enough to eat in the prior week. Between April 2023 and April 2024, food insecurity jumped 83.6%, rising from 6.7% to 12.3%. New Hampshire followed, with food insecurity jumping 74.4%. Vermont (66.7%) rounded out the top three.

According to Schulz — author of “Ask Questions, Save Money, Make More: How to Take Control of Your Financial Life” — inflation plays the biggest role in these increases.

“I don’t think there’s any question that inflation has played a role in driving food insecurity higher,” he says. “Obviously, the issues for many go far deeper than that, but there’s no doubt that rising prices at the grocery store have stretched many Americans’ budgets past the breaking point, leaving them with very few options and forcing them to make some difficult choices.”

States where food insecurity rose the most

RankStateSometimes or often not enough to eat, April 2023Sometimes or often not enough to eat, April 2024% change
N/AU.S.10.9%10.8%-0.9%
1Wyoming6.7%12.3%83.6%
2New Hampshire4.3%7.5%74.4%
3Vermont6.0%10.0%66.7%

Source: LendingTree analysis of U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey, conducted April 2 to 29, 2024, and April 26 to May 8, 2023.

On the other hand, food insecurity rates dropped 44.1% from 18.8% to 10.5% in Mississippi, followed by North Dakota (41.3%) and Hawaii (39.1%).

Overall, rates fell more than they rose. While food insecurity rose in 24 states, it fell in 27.

Full rankings

States where food insecurity rose/dropped the most

RankStateSometimes or often not enough to eat, April 2023Sometimes or often not enough to eat, April 2024% change
1Wyoming6.7%12.3%83.6%
2New Hampshire4.3%7.5%74.4%
3Vermont6.0%10.0%66.7%
4West Virginia8.7%12.9%48.3%
5Wisconsin7.0%10.0%42.9%
6North Carolina6.8%9.5%39.7%
7District of Columbia7.6%10.3%35.5%
8Florida9.7%13.1%35.1%
9Washington7.6%10.1%32.9%
10Minnesota5.2%6.9%32.7%
11Tennessee11.0%14.3%30.0%
12Delaware7.1%9.2%29.6%
13Louisiana11.1%13.7%23.4%
14Maine6.9%8.0%15.9%
15New Mexico9.8%11.2%14.3%
16Connecticut9.6%10.7%11.5%
16Nebraska8.7%9.7%11.5%
18Utah7.6%8.2%7.9%
19Missouri11.5%12.4%7.8%
20Virginia9.1%9.8%7.7%
21Kentucky9.9%10.4%5.1%
22Texas14.6%15.2%4.1%
23Indiana11.2%11.6%3.6%
24Ohio10.5%10.7%1.9%
25South Dakota8.5%8.3%-2.4%
26Arizona12.1%11.8%-2.5%
27New Jersey11.1%10.7%-3.6%
28Maryland10.7%10.3%-3.7%
29Massachusetts10.2%9.6%-5.9%
30South Carolina10.0%9.3%-7.0%
31Oklahoma13.0%12.0%-7.7%
32Kansas9.0%8.3%-7.8%
33Iowa9.8%8.9%-9.2%
34Michigan13.0%11.6%-10.8%
35Georgia15.2%13.4%-11.8%
36Pennsylvania10.5%9.2%-12.4%
37Arkansas12.5%10.9%-12.8%
38California10.8%9.4%-13.0%
39Alabama14.4%12.2%-15.3%
40New York11.1%9.1%-18.0%
41Montana9.8%8.0%-18.4%
42Idaho13.0%10.1%-22.3%
43Alaska12.9%10.0%-22.5%
44Nevada15.7%12.0%-23.6%
45Illinois10.5%8.0%-23.8%
46Colorado11.8%8.2%-30.5%
47Oregon11.5%7.8%-32.2%
48Rhode Island14.0%9.1%-35.0%
49Hawaii8.7%5.3%-39.1%
50North Dakota10.9%6.4%-41.3%
51Mississippi18.8%10.5%-44.1%

Source: LendingTree analysis of U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey, conducted April 2 to 29, 2024, and April 26 to May 8, 2023.

Those with food insecurity are likely to report having feelings indicating mental health struggles. Of those reporting food insecurity, 66.4% also reported feeling nervous, anxious or on edge for at least several days.

Meanwhile, 65.6% reported uncontrollable worrying, 60.2% reported feeling down, depressed or hopeless, and 57.9% reported little interest or pleasure in doing things.

% of people reporting food scarcity who struggle with mental health
Feelings% of people suffering food scarcity reporting these feelings several days or more
Frequency of feeling nervous, anxious or on edge66.4%
Frequency of not being able to stop or control worrying65.6%
Frequency of feeling down, depressed or hopeless60.2%
Frequency of having little interest or pleasure in doing things57.9%
Feelings% of people suffering food scarcity reporting these feelings at least half the time
Frequency of feeling nervous, anxious or on edge36.3%
Frequency of not being able to stop or control worrying35.6%
Frequency of feeling down, depressed or hopeless30.7%
Frequency of having little interest or pleasure in doing things28.2%

Source: LendingTree analysis of U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey, conducted April 2 to 29, 2024.

In contrast, roughly two-thirds of Americans who responded that they never felt these ways said they had all the types and amounts of food they wanted.

With today’s food prices, every dollar matters at the grocery store. To help stretch your budget, we recommend the following:

  • Utilize credit card rewards. A good grocery store rewards card could offer as much as 6% cash back on grocery purchases.
  • Buy in bulk. If you’re able, you can save up to 27% by buying in bulk, according to a 2023 LendingTree study. That can be especially helpful for long-lasting or nonperishable items.
  • Reach out for help. “There are so many incredible organizations filled with hardworking, dedicated people who want to help those struggling with food insecurity,” Schulz says. “If you’re one of those struggling, seek out one of these groups in your area. If you know someone in need of help, reach out to them and point them toward one of these groups.”

LendingTree researchers compiled and analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey — specifically Phase 4.1, Cycle 4, conducted April 2 to April 29, 2024. Year-over-year comparisons were made to the Phase 3.8, Week 57 survey, conducted April 26 to May 8, 2023.

For this analysis, researchers considered responses of “sometimes not enough to eat” and “often not enough to eat” in the prior week as suffering from food scarcity or being food insecure. Responses of “not reported” regarding food access were excluded from the denominator and numerator of all calculations.

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