[...When the recession took hold in 2008, the number of Americans who were considered food insecure spiked to 17 million, the highest level recorded since the Department of Agriculture (USDA) began monitoring food security in 1995. It has remained close to that level since — the 2009 number, released last November, was 17.4 million.
With that has come the increase in need among groups that were historically less vulnerable to hunger, according to the USDA's Household Food Security in the United States annual report.
Providing a buffer against this need, a record number of 44 million or one in seven Americans (half of whom are children) are currently enrolled in the government's largest nutritional safety net program — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, according to the USDA. Formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, SNAP is federally funded, but administered by states.
Additionally, government-affiliated food banks and other community and faith-based food pantries and soup kitchens served more than 37 million Americans, according to Feeding America's 2010 hunger study. This figure is up 46% from 2006.
"This is a record number of Americans who are voluntarily seeking emergency food assistance," says Kevin Concannon, USDA undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, charged with administering the 15 federally funded nutrition programs. "Not since the Great Depression has this kind of assistance been as urgently needed as now."] emphasis added