Many people conflate hunger and homelessness. Although the issues are closely related, there are several important distinctions we need to be aware of. For starters, a person does not have to be experiencing homelessness to be hungry. 

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, over 582,000 Americans experienced homelessness on a single night in 2022, yet more than 44 million Americans are food insecure, meaning they don’t have access to an adequate supply of nutritious, affordable food. Hunger often precedes homelessness because people who are forced to decide between paying for housing or groceries will, more often than not, choose the former.

Both hunger and homelessness often have distinct causes and can have disparate impacts on different segments of the population. Let’s look at the facts!


Hunger & homelessness By state

Click a state on the map below for a snapshot of the number of people who are food insecure and experiencing homelessness.



Hunger is best understood as a symptom of the larger issues of poverty and inequality.

Hunger Facts
  • 1 in 7 Americans are food insecure.
  • 17 million households experienced food insecurity at some point in 2022.
  • About 13 million American children are unsure of when they will have their next meal.
  • Food insecurity exists in every single state, county, and congressional district in the United States.
  • Food insecurity among single mothers was nearly 34% in 2022, an increase of 37% compared to 2021.
  • Nearly 20 million low-income children qualify for free or reduced-cost school lunches.
  • Children who face hunger are more likely to be in poor health and struggle in school.
  • In 1980, there were about 2 dozen food banks in the United States. Today, there are more than 400.


  • Food Deserts - Food Deserts are areas or neighborhoods where residents do not have access to a grocery store that provides the wholesome and nutritious foods that are necessary for a healthy diet.
  • Poverty - According to Feeding America, 72% of the households served by its affiliated food banks live at or below 100% of the federal poverty line. While unemployment is certainly a significant factor, 54% of the households Feeding America serves had at least 1 person employed in the past year.
  • Income Inequality - By almost any measure, income inequality has increased exponentially over the past 30+ years. Since 1980, most of the growth in wages has been concentrated among top earners, while wages for the average worker have stagnated.
  • Lack of Affordable Housing – There is not one state or county in the United States where a minimum-wage, full-time worker can afford a two-bedroom apartment.
  • Food Deserts - Food Deserts are areas or neighborhoods where residents do not have access to a grocery store that provides the wholesome and nutritious foods necessary for a healthy diet.



According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, over 582,000 people experience homelessness on any given night in the United States.

Homelessness Facts
  • Chronic homelessness is the term given to individuals that experience long-term or repeated bouts of homelessness.
  • 127,705 individuals are considered chronically unhoused, an 16% increase between 2020 and 2022.
  • Over 67,000 of all homeless persons are veterans, comprising 10.6% of all unhoused people in the U.S
  • Veterans are more than 2x as likely to become unhoused than those who didn’t serve in the military.
  • 60% of the entire homeless population are men.
  • Although they only make up 12% of the U.S. population, 37% of all people experiencing homelessness are African American.


  • The U.S. has a shortage of 7.3 million rental homes affordable and available to renters with extremely low incomes – that is, incomes at or below either the federal poverty guideline or 30% of their area median income. Only 33 affordable and available rental homes exist for every 100 extremely low-income renter households.
  • Poverty is the other major factor that contributes to homelessness. A lack of employment opportunities, combined with a decline in public assistance, leaves low-income families just an illness or accident away from being put out on the street.
  • According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a family with a full-time worker making minimum wage could not afford fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the U.S.
  • The average person would need to make $25.82 per-hour to afford a modest 2-bedroom apartment – more than 3x the federal minimum wage.
  • Poor health is also closely linked to homelessness. 20% of the homeless population reported having a mental illness, 16% had conditions related to substance abuse, and thousands had HIV/AIDS, diabetes, or heart disease.
  • For many young people, single adults, and families, domestic violence is the primary cause of their homelessness.


The nationwide issues of homelessness and food insecurity form a critical intersection that severely impacts public health. An escalating housing crisis and inadequate income have trapped millions of Americans in a relentless cycle, leaving their health subjected to stressful living situations. Homelessness and food insecurity are not isolated problems, rather they amplify each other, creating a tempest of social and health deficiencies. 

To combat these critical issues, there are a few things you can do to help. Starting with food insecurity, you can contribute to food banks, volunteer at local food distribution centers, and endorse policies that ensure everyone has access to healthy food options. 

Simultaneously, it’s important to address homelessness – by advocating for affordable housing, offering time or resources to shelters, and supporting policy changes for fair wages and employment opportunities. Our collective actions can build a compassionate and understanding society, significantly impacting those who are suffering. 

The running issue of hunger and homelessness in America won’t go away without your help. With over 38 million food insecure Americans and 11 million food insecure children, it’s important to take as much action as we can to fight hunger.


Here are 3 ways you can make a difference: