More than 50 million Americans short of food

September 5, 2012: 6:34 PM ET
grocery shelves
Being able to afford food has become more difficult for millions of Americans.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

More than 50 million Americans couldn't afford to buy food at some point in 2011, according to federal data.

Children in some 3.9 million households suffered from food insecurity last year, with their families unable to provide them with adequate, nutritious food at times.

Nearly 17 million Americans suffered from "very low food security," meaning they had to reduce the amount they ate, saying the food they bought did not last and they didn't have the funds to buy more. They typically found themselves in this situation a few days a month for seven months of the year.

The number of people in this category shot up by more than 800,000 from 2010, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report released Wednesday. Women living alone, black households and the poor and near-poor were affected the most.

Related - Are you better off than you were 4 years ago?

The report comes the day after the department said that a record 46.7 million received food stamps in June. Only 57% of food insecure households said they participate in a federal food and nutrition assistance program.

Two jobs, hard times

Food stamps, along with other safety net programs, have come into the spotlight during the 2012 election. President Obama has pushed to expand the initiative, while Republicans want to curtail it.

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