WASHINGTON — Seventeen million U.S. households, or nearly 15%, were food insecure during 2008, according to a report released Nov. 16 by the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The number of families that had difficulty putting enough food on the table at times during the year was up from 13 million households, or 11.1%, in 2007, and was the highest level recorded since food security surveys were initiated in 1995, the E.R.S. said.

"The Obama administration has put in place unprecedented measures to promote job creation and combat hunger in our nation, a problem that the American sense of fairness should not tolerate and American ingenuity can overcome," said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. "The Department of Agriculture’s nutrition assistance programs provide a safety net that improves food access to those with critical needs, but addressing the root of hunger requires a broader strategy. By improving access to federal nutrition programs and working with our partners at all levels of government and society, we can make progress in our effort to reduce and eventually eliminate childhood hunger."

The E.R.S. report also revealed that one-third of food insecure households had very low food security (food intake of some household members was reduced and their eating patterns disrupted at times during the year). At 6.7 million U.S. households, this total was up from 4.7 million households in 2007, and the highest level observed since 1995.

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