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Executive Summary- RTI Full Hunger Report

Executive Summary
In 2012, 15.898 million children in America (or 21.6 % of children) lived in food insecure households, and more than half of these children experienced food insecurity themselves.33 Until 2007, food insecurity rates in the U.S. were relatively stable, between 15.6% and 17.6%, but the extent of food insecurity increased dramatically in 2008, from 15.8% to 21.0%.34 Despite the end of the Great Recession in June 2009, the prevalence of food insecurity remained at an all‐time high from 2009 to 2012, with the highest rates among households with children, households of persons with disabilities, and racial and ethnic minorities. Despite public, private, and community responses to food insecurity, these disturbing trends suggest that we lack a fundamental understanding of the landscape of factors that influence the rates of food insecurity, rates that ultimately have serious health and economic consequences on millions of Americans. In response to the magnitude and seriousness of the food insecurity problem in the U.S., an extensive food insecurity literature has emerged.34 Understanding and awareness of food insecurity have come a long way in the last two decades, yet questions remain and, to a large degree, we have been unable to translate this extensive research into policy and program design.35
Current and Prospective Scope of Hunger and Food Security in America: A Review of Current Research | ES-1
This report on hunger and food security in America was prepared by RTI International in response to Section 743 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014 (P.L. 113‐76). During the 11 week project, RTI conducted an extensive literature review and environmental scan of the research conducted on food insecurity from the Great Recession in 2008 to the present time (a detailed description of the methodology may be found in Appendix A). To avoid duplicating previous studies, the report is intentionally brief in its description of the research data on the scope of hunger and food insecurity in the US. Instead, the report seeks to advance the understanding of key determinants, consequences, and responses to food insecurity, establishing a framework that will drive the development of policy and programming recommendations. The duration of this project prevented us from conducting “deeper dives” into a number of areas of interest (e.g., physiological mechanisms connecting key determinants to health outcomes), areas that may require additional study to inform the dialogue on hunger and food insecurity. Nevertheless, we believe that this report will serve as a jumping off point for the National Commission on Hunger, and provide the President, Congress, and the public with a deeper understanding of the myriad risk factors that influence the food security of Americans. It should be noted that the recommendations provided in Section 5 are intended only to capture the major themes that emerged from this report. Over the next year and a half, the bipartisan National Commission on Hunger will be engaged in deliberations leading to the development of policy recommendations that reflect their diverse experience in hunger and food security, and draw on the results of additional studies and analyses that they direct RTI to perform.
The report begins with an Introduction that (1) establishes definitions for hunger, food security, and food insecurity, (2) presents a simplified framework that highlights major themes (e.g., household composition) discussed throughout the report, (3) describes how food insecurity is measured, (4) summarizes research on the current scope of food insecurity in America, and (5) offers some thoughts on the prospective scope of food insecurity in America given the paucity of research on the topic. Key findings presented in this section include:
Food insecurity jumped sharply at the start of the Great Recession in 2008, and remains at historically high levels
Starting in 2008, the prevalence of food insecurity increased quickly to 14.5% (17.6 million households) and has remained around that level through 2012, the most recent year with data available
The most recent assessment of household food security (2012) shows that food security disproportionately affects vulnerable populations, including children, the elderly, minorities, and low‐income households
Twenty percent of U.S. households with children (7.8 million households) experienced food insecurity in 2012; in half of those households, only adults were considered food insecure because adults often shield children from food insecurity
ES-2 | Current and Prospective Scope of Hunger and Food Security in America: A Review of Current Research
Food insecurity tends to be episodic; in 2012, a food insecure household was food insecure for an average of 7 months out of the year
Households in certain geographic regions (e.g., the South) and environments (e.g., metropolitan areas) experience higher than average rates of food insecurity
There is very little research on the prospective scope of hunger and food security in America; however, future perturbations of the system (e.g., climate change; economic downturns) may increase the household rates of food insecurity.
Section 2, Key Determinants of Food Insecurity, discusses the “risk factors” for food insecurity that fall into two major categories (1) individual and household characteristics (e.g., socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity, household composition, disability) and (2) contextual factors (e.g., geographic location, food and energy prices, unemployment rates). The section highlights a critical theme in food security research, namely, that food insecurity is a function of the complex interactions among and between multiple risk factors, and that the association between food insecurity and these factors is, at best, incompletely understood. Significant determinants of food insecurity presented in this section include
Prevalence of food insecurity among households with children (20%) is higher than the national average (14.5%)
Low socioeconomic (SES) predicts food insecurity, and income (a key component of SES) consistently correlates with household food insecurity, but does not predict it perfectly
African American, American Indian, and Hispanic households experience food insecurity at higher rates than white, non‐Hispanic households
Economic hardships, including unemployment status and low SES, are key determinants of food insecurity among racial and ethnic minorities
Prevalence of food insecurity among immigrant households is estimated to be nearly twice as high as the prevalence of food insecurity among nonimmigrant households in the United States
Children in households headed by single women are disproportionally affected by food insecurity; approximately half of all households with food insecure children are headed by single women
Households that include persons with disabilities experience higher rates of food insecurity; nearly one‐third of food insecure households include a working‐age adult with a disability
Current and Prospective Scope of Hunger and Food Security in America: A Review of Current Research | ES-3
The relationship between food security and health is often bidirectional—poor health is both an outcome and a risk factor for food insecurity
Increasing energy and food prices have been shown to negatively affect the food security status of households, leading to poor child health outcomes and increased hospitalizations
When neighborhood housing costs are high and exceed a significant portion of the household income, families have higher chances of experiencing food insecurity
Experiencing prolonged unemployment and underemployment can contribute to a “financial cascade” which increases the number of food insecure households that rely on private and/or public food assistance programs.
Section 3, Consequences of Food Insecurity, summarizes research on outcomes that have been shown to be associated with food insecurity, including (1) health, development and education for children, (2) health of adults, (3) economic, (4) workforce, and (5) health care. In the popular media, food insecurity is frequently limited to discussions of child health which, although extremely important in both the near‐term and long‐term, represent only one dimension of the consequences of food insecurity. Thus, this section seeks to broaden awareness of the range and potential severity of the consequences of food insecurity. Some of the important consequences identified in this section include
Studies have shown that poor maternal nutrition during food‐insecure times can lead to a reduced intake of micronutrients, such as calcium, iron, and folate, which are important for fetal development
Children in food‐insecure households are more likely to experience risk of hospitalization, iron deficiency anemia, decreased bone mineral content in boys, and overall fair/poor health
Children experiencing hunger in kindergarten had lower test scores in reading and math by third grade
Once food‐insecure children reach school age, studies have shown that they struggle with mental health issues, lower cognitive development, challenges with peer interactions, and lower grades
Individuals that experience chronic food insecurity have higher prevalence of diabetes, increased inflammation, and cardiovascular disease and higher odds of being obese
In part because of lower and inadequate nutrient intakes, food insecure older adults and seniors, especially those with poor health, can experience declines in health
ES-4 | Current and Prospective Scope of Hunger and Food Security in America: A Review of Current Research
Shepard et al. estimated that “hunger costs our nation at least $167.5 billion due to the combination of lost productivity per year, more expensive public education because of the rising costs of poor education outcomes, avoidable health care costs, and the cost of charity to keep families fed”
Food insecurity can increase educational costs because food‐insecure children are more likely to receive special educational services, nearly doubling the education costs relative to children without special needs
Health conditions associated with food insecurity can translate into limited labor force participation and more absenteeism, presenteeism, and turnover—all of which are costly for the employer.
Section 4, Responses to Food Insecurity, describes programs and strategies that have been developed to provide assistance to the food insecure; these include (1) public assistance programs such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), (2) private assistance programs, commonly referred to as “emergency food providers” that represent, primarily, charitable organizations, and (3) the food environment as defined by the physical structures in the local community such as food stores, restaurants, schools, and worksites. The scope of this report precluded any sort of program evaluation and, therefore, the information presented in this section is intended to promote an understanding of what food “safety net” programs are available. To the extent allowed by published research, this section points out what has worked well, and what has not worked well using household food security status as an outcome. This section describes several innovative strategies developed through different programs, for example
Innovative strategies used in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) include expanding eligibility, increasing benefits, revising asset rules and performing outreach activities
Innovative strategies used in child‐focused programs include expanding eligibility in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), simplifying the application process for school meals, expanding eligibility for school meals, increasing availability of school breakfast, offering universal‐free breakfast, and enhancing summer food benefits
Innovative strategies used by private food providers include creating resource hubs to integrate services and placing food pantries in schools
Innovative strategies used in the food environment include conducting community assessments, promoting community supported agriculture, locating supermarkets in low SES neighborhoods, and providing nutrition and financial management education.
Current and Prospective Scope of Hunger and Food Security in America: A Review of Current Research | ES-5
Section 5, Potential Strategies to Reduce and Prevent Food Insecurity, presents potential approaches that can help households approaching the food insecurity threshold remain food secure, and enable those who have already crossed into food insecurity to escape. The section mirrors Section 4 to some degree, and describes approaches to strengthen (1) household economic security, (2) federal food and nutrition assistance programs, and (3) private food and nutrition assistance programs. As suggested above, RTI proposed these strategies based on major themes that emerged from the literature review and synthesis. Thus, these recommendations represent our understanding of what the current research suggests, rather than the comprehensive set of policy recommendations that the National Commission on
will develop. Examples of potential strategies discussed in this section include
Improve economic security by encouraging lower‐middle income employment and increased wages, improving the affordability of housing and health insurance and developing financial incentives specifically targeted to low income residents
Maintain and strengthen federal food and nutrition assistance programs, providing more stable resources for families trying to provide a better life for themselves
Promote collaborations both among and within public and private service providers
Incentivize charitable donations
Support nutrition and financial management education.
ES-6 | Current and Prospective Scope of Hunger and Food Security in America: A Review of Current Research

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About Meera

Meera Vasudevan is Co-founder of Preferred Brands International, a Connecticut-based food company that makes Tasty Bite, a range of natural, ethnic food sold in major supermarkets around the world.

Meera also co-founded ASG-Omni a US and India based consulting firm involved in the design and execution of entry strategies for large US corporations looking to do business in India.

Meera began her career in market research at MARG (Marketing & Research Group), India. MARG is now part of the Nielsen group. After nearly a decade there, Meera co-founded India’s first specialist and largest qualitative research firm, Quantum Market Research. She worked on a number of entry strategies for global brands looking to enter the Indian market and on national social research projects for UNICEF.

She has served on some non-profit boards in the US, and is currently on the board of the United Way of Western Connecticut.

Meera has a Bachelors in English with post-graduate qualifications in Marketing from the University of Madras and INSEAD, France.


About Ashok

Ashok Vasudevan is Co-founder & CEO of Preferred Brands International, a Connecticut-based food company that makes Tasty Bite and a range of other natural, ethnic and specialty foods sold in major supermarkets globally.

Prior to Tasty Bite, Ashok headed the India desk of Pepsi World Trade in Somers, New York. He received Pepsi’s prestigious MVP award in 1991.

Before joining Pepsi, Ashok spent 10 years with Unilever in various functions that included Management Development, Sales & Marketing and International Business

He is involved in several non-profit organizations in India and the US including:

  • Director on the Board of The Fairfield County Business Council
  • Member of the Chairman’s Circle of the US-India Business Council,
  • Distinguished Visiting Professor of International Entrepreneurship and a member of the Business advisory Council of Great Lakes Institute of Management in Chennai, India.

Ashok Vasudevan graduated in Agricultural Sciences from Bangalore, and post graduate degrees at Bajaj Institute of Management in Bombay and the Harvard Business School.



About Anil

Dr. Nigam worked at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center for over three decades as Research Staff Member.  His research at IBM spanned a broad range of areas, including Parallel Processing Architectures and Database Machines, Artificial Intelligence and Qualitative Reasoning, and Operational Business Modeling and Business Design. Over his last decade at IBM, he worked extensively on conceiving, developing, practicing and evolving the “business artifact” approach to building Business Operation Models. The technique was used in a number of engagements with a range of businesses. At IBM he has received Research Division Awards, Research Commercialization Award, an IBM Consulting Group Engagement Excellence Award, a Technical Group Award and an Outstanding Technical Achievement Award. In 2007 he was named Master Inventor. He has published extensively in the areas listed above.

He holds a B Tech (Mechanical Engg) and M Tech (Computer Science) from IIT/Kanpur. Later he obtained MS  and PhD,  both in Computer Science, from University of Rochester, Rochester, NY. He worked as Research Assistant  (Computational Fluid Dynamics) at Imperial College, London.  He also worked as a systems analyst at Tata Consultancy Services, during the early years of the company.



About Chris

Chris Bruhl is the president and chief executive officer of The Business Council of Fairfield County, a private, non-profit corporation. The Business Council leads private sector involvement in developing public policy that promotes economic growth in Fairfield County and is the vehicle for a network of business leaders to work cooperatively to strengthen their enterprises and their communities. The organization has gained a national reputation for its work in transportation, education, workforce development, support for entrepreneurship and health care policy.

Mr. Bruhl has been a frequent consultant, writer, and speaker on the subjects of the relationship between education and economic competitiveness, leadership network development, economic issues and trends, and workforce development.  He serves on a variety of boards, commissions and advisory groups, including the Connecticut Institute for the 21st Century, Connecticut Planning Commission for Higher Education, Connecticut Campus Compact, Connecticut Convention and Sports Bureau, Connecticut Employment & Training Commission, the Sea Research Foundation’s President’s Council, and the Stamford Partnership.  He is an adjunct faculty member in the UConn School of Business MBA program and taught in a similar capacity at Manhattanville College, in New York.

He has represented the United States at Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and has addressed conferences presented by the national Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations, the U.S. Department of Labor, Arts for America, the National Association of State Land Grant Colleges and Universities, the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, the Northeast Association of State Transportation Officials, Clean Air, Cool Planet (environmental policy advocates), the YMCAs of America, the Regional Plan Association (NY, NJ, CT); and higher education faculty convocations of Connecticut State University, the Connecticut Community College System, Housatonic Community College (Bridgeport), and Norwalk Community College. As a consultant, he has served clients in the public and private sectors throughout the United States.

Mr. Bruhl is a U.S. Army veteran, a contributing author to two books and was, for four years, the director of a national training program for non-profit board and staff, conducted in affiliation with faculty from Yale University. He holds a BA, in American Civilization, from Brown University, an MA, in English, from Louisiana State University, and an MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business.  


About Kim

Kim Morgan is the Chief Executive Officer for United Way of Western Connecticut. With more than twenty five years experience working in the non-profit field, she has worked to improve the quality of life for those impacted by mental health and substance abuse issues, homelessness, and poverty. Kim has consulted with non-profits on outcome measurements, strategic planning and grant writing.

Kim has served on several boards including the Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation, Christian Community Outreach Ministries and the New Fairfield Community Foundation, and currently serves on the board of the United Way of CT. She holds an undergraduate degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Management Communications.

She has been with United Way of Western Connecticut for the past eleven years. Kim is a native and current resident of New Fairfield, CT. She and her husband have 3 daughters. They served as licensed foster/adoptive parents for DCF for over 10 years.


About Supriya

Supriya Srinivasan is a scientist and professor at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA. Her lab is focused on finding answers to the following questions: How do we regulate our metabolism, and how does this impact how we age? To what extent do our genes, behavior and the environment influence the ability to defend metabolic homeostasis? What are the genes and molecules that underlie behavior and physiology over a lifetime?

Her lab studies these fundamental questions in neuroendocrine biology using the nematode C. elegans, in which the core functionality of these processes has been preserved. Using a simple model system allows her group to query biology across several orders of magnitude, from small molecules and neural circuit activity to the whole genome, and to discover the most important and ancient features of animal metabolism.

Supriya was raised in India and in Australia before coming to the US for graduate study, where she has remained ever since. She is deeply interested the biology of nutrition, metabolism and healthy aging in humans. She lives in San Diego with her husband and two children.


About Charles

Charles Hill is Executive Program Manager, Information Governance and Data Lake. In this role, Mr. Hill is responsible for implementing IBM’s internal Data Lake and Information Governance programs within the Chief Data Office.

Charles joined IBM in November 1978. Since then, he has held a variety of leadership positions in Sales, Marketing, Information Technology, Information Governance, Consulting and Business Transformation. Mr. Hill has extensive global experience, having lead teams in the US, India, Brazil, Germany, the UK, Australia, Japan and recently concluded a two year consulting engagement in China.

He has led many key projects for IBM, including leading the successful delivery of large, complex projects in information management, including customer information, product information, data integration, ERP deployments, data warehousing and service oriented architecture solutions across the entire enterprise (Sales & Marketing, Supply Chain, Fulfillment & Finance). He has effectively built and led global teams focused on driving business benefits leveraging business process and information technology.

Charles attended the University of Rochester, and participated in executive education programs at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, M.I.T., and the Harvard Business School.

Charles enjoys singing and traveling to different parts of the world learning about new cultures. Charlie currently resides in Stamford, CT USA with his wife and their 2 children.


About Saurav

Saurav Adhikari is responsible for driving corporate strategy at HCL (, and institutional development for the Shiv Nadar Foundation. HCL, established in 1976 is an original IT-garage start up turned into a $6.6 billion global technology enterprise.

Saurav brings over three decades of global strategic business insight to the role, from his diverse experience of leading global firms like Unilever, Pepsi and Group SEB in markets across North America, EMEA, APAC and India. His responsibilities include visioning and execution of HCL’s mid- to long-term business strategy, as well defining its corporate brand and communications positioning. In his 14-year career at HCL, Saurav has been responsible for building valuable relationships with consulting majors, private equity funds, investment banks, partners and customers that have had significant revenue and profit impact for HCL.

More recently, Saurav has also been helping conceptualize and build up Shiv Nadar Foundation’s landmark institutions. The Foundation is one of India’s largest philanthropic institutions focused on empowering individuals to bridge the socio-economic divide, through transformational education, creativity and art.

Saurav spearheads the Foundation’s partnerships with some of the world’s premier educational institutions including the Carnegie Mellon University, Duke University, University of Pennsylvania and Babson.

Saurav was earlier President – North America for HCL BPO and was based in Stamford CT, USA from 2002- 2005, after having joined HCL in January 2000 as the President of an enterprise networking startup company.

Saurav schooled at Mayo College, Ajmer in Rajasthan. He earned his B.A. in Economics from Hindu College, Delhi University, an MBA from JBIMS, Bombay University and an AMP from INSEAD Fontainebleau, France. Saurav has a passion for integrating strategic and creative thinking processes into delivering business impact. He enjoys writing, eclectic reading, traveling and fitness.


About Ramu

Ramu is a General Partner at A.Capital Ventures where he heads the enterprise software investing practice. Founded in 2014, A. Capital Ventures is an early-stage venture capital firm based in Menlo Park, CA.

Prior to A.Capital Ventures, Ramu was a Partner at Andreessen Horowitz where he worked on over a dozen investments in the enterprise software space. In addition, he helped shape the firm’s investment thesis in Cloud infrastructure and Big Data. Past investments include Instart Logic, Databricks, Mesosphere and Actifio.

A computer scientist by training, Ramu has over a decade of operating experience in product management and engineering at both startups and public companies. Prior to Andreessen Horowitz, Ramu led new product initiatives in Big Data for Aster Data (acquired by Teradata). Earlier in his career, Ramu was an engineer at VMware where his team developed the industry’s first virtual switch for VMware’s flagship server product line.

Ramu holds an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, an MS in Computer Science from the University of Maryland and a BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering (with University Honors) from Carnegie Mellon University.


About Bob

I started off at SoundView Technology Group, a boutique investment bank specializing in high tech stocks that was located in Stamford, CT.  I was a Vice President on the Syndicate Desk and in my tenure we raised over 26 Billion in new capital for our clients. After the internet bubble collapse and SoundView was no more, I moved to Wachovia Securities and headed branch operations for their Greenwich office which was later downsized during a restructuring.  After that I was called back to work for Wells Fargo Advisors, which had bought Wachovia Securites during the financial crisis of 2008 and worked on a compliance team that would oversee 220 brokers in CT and NY.    

During that time, the local food bank knew me by name, since each year I would fund raise among friends and family and make an annual cash donation for the needy. It was important for me to share, since I and my friends had been fortunate, and as the saying goes “there but for the grace of God go I.” That phrase is more timely today than it has ever been.  

I am very fortunate to be able to work for the MAV Foundation at this point in my life. After almost 20 years in finance, with a job description amounting to “Make the rich, richer” I reached a point where it’s not about enriching your own net worth, but enriching the lives of others. We will certainly do that and more at MAVF.


About Byron

Byron is the CEO of the Center for Board Excellence and is architect of CBE’s unique board and CEO evaluation platform, including the trademarked Board Excellence Assessment.

Prior to CBE, Byron was CEO at Select Homes, Inc., from 1998 to 2009, and an investment manager at AIG-VALIC from 1989 to 1998. Byron has held board positions at Select Homes, Inc., Arkosian Software, Greensboro Soccer Club, Guilford County PTA, and Greensboro Downtown Parks, Inc.

Byron is a graduate of James Madison University (BA) and Harvard Business School (OPM). Byron lives in Greensboro, NC with his wife. He has four adult children and two grandsons. When he is not working, he enjoys skiing, golf, traveling, cooking and studying wine.