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 homeless to be hungry. Forty two million Americans are food insecure – which means they don’t have access to an adequate supply of nutritious, affordable food. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, nearly 553,000 Americans were experiencing homelessness on a single night in 2018. 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.

A look at the facts will show that both hunger and homelessness often have distinct causes, and can have disparate impacts on different segments of the population.


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 6 Americans are food insecure.
  • 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.
  • 57% of people served by Feeding America have had to choose between food and housing
  • Nearly 22 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 350.



  • 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 that are necessary for a healthy diet.



According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, 552,830 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. The chronically homeless are often the public face of the issue, however, they make up only 18% of the entire homeless population on a given day.
  • Nearly 38,000 or 7% of all homeless persons are veterans.
  • 70% of the entire homeless population are men.
  • Although the only make up 13% of the U.S. population, 40% of all people experiencing homelessness are African American.


  • The lack of affordable housing is one of the biggest factors behind contributing to homelessness. In 2017, 6.7 million households spent more than 50% of their income on rent.
  • 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.
  • A renter earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour would need to work 103 hours per week to afford a one-bedroom rental home at the Fair Market Rent and 127 hours per week to afford a two-bedroom.
  • Poor health is also closely linked to homelessness. 20% of the homelessness population reported have 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.