School is back in session.
Those meals make a huge difference for the millions of families that struggle with hunger at home.
But here's some good news.
The number of U.S. households that had a tough time getting enough food dropped significantly between 2014 and 2015, according to a new report by the Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service.
In 2014, 14% of U.S. households were food insecure, which means their access to enough food to live an active, healthy lifestyle was limited by lack of money and other resources. In 2015, that number dropped to 12.7% – or 15.8 million households.
Researchers also found a significant decline in the number of households that experienced "very low food security," or actual hunger. And that fewer children were going hungry at home.
- In 2015, 5% of U.S. households (6.3 million households) had very low food security, down from 5.6% in 2014. In this more severe range of food insecurity, the food intake of some household members was reduced and normal eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year due to limited resources. This decline was also statistically significant.
- Children were food insecure at times during the year in 7.8% of U.S. households with children (3.0 million households), down significantly from 9.4% in 2014. These households were unable at times during the year to provide adequate, nutritious food for their children.
The USDA credits government food assistance for the improvements.
Of the almost 40,000 households surveyed for the report, nearly 60% reported receiving SNAP or WIC benefits, or free or reduced-priced school meals in the month prior to the survey. Duke Storen is senior director at the No Kid Hungry campaign, a national nonprofit effort to reduce childhood hunger. He told NPR:
These numbers are great. We're seeing more children participating in the programs that are available to them, like school breakfast.
The new numbers show the biggest one-year improvement in reducing food insecurity since the Great Recession, according to NPR.
And although the millions of families still facing hunger is a problem that needs to be solved, the recent findings are encouraging.
You can read the full report, "Household Food Security in the United States in 2015," here.