WASHINGTON — A little more than 17.2 million U.S. households, or approximately 14.5%, were food insecure during 2010, according to a report released Sept. 7 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 down narrowly from 17.3 million households, or 14.7%, in 2009, the E.R.S. said.

“This report underscores the critical role that federal nutrition assistance programs play in helping struggling American families put food on the table until they can get back on their feet,” said Kevin Concannon, Undersecretary for U.S.D.A. Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services. “Many families receive assistance not because they want to, but because they need it as a last resort to make ends meet. As the economy continues to recover and jobs are created, we hope to see the number of families in need of nutrition assistance shrink.”

The E.R.S. report also revealed 5.4% 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 6.4 million U.S. households, this total was down from 6.8 million households in 2009.

For the full report, visit www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/ERR125/ERR125.pdf.