Today, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released their annual food security report, “Household Food Security in the United States in 2013,” outlying the most recent numbers for food insecurity (often referred to as experiencing hunger). The report found that 17.5 million American households had difficulty providing enough food due to lack of resources, this number has not changed significantly from 2012. Additionally, the report details that 19.5 percent of households with children are food insecure–which means that for these children, their families lack consistent access to a nutritious and well-balanced diet.

The report also found that 62 percent of food insecure households in the survey reported that they had participated in one or more of the three largest nutrition assistance programs, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and the National School Lunch Program. Without these critical programs, many more children could face higher levels of very low food security. These programs are critical for children as 47 percent of SNAP recipients are kids, WIC is specifically targeted to help improve woman and children’s dietary needs, and the National School Lunch Program serves 32 million children a healthy lunch.

Although today’s numbers hold fairly steady from last year, childhood hunger remains too high, with 1 in 5 households with children facing food insecurity in the United States. Many food insecure households are participating in nutrition programs, but there are significant numbers of households that are eligible, but not connected to the programs. It is crucial that Congress continues to support child nutrition programs and build on the programs so that no child goes to bed at night worried that they or a family member will go hungry tomorrow.

Important initiatives like the Community Eligibility Provision, which goes into effect this school year, help to reach more children who may be hungry. In addition there are proposals in Congress, the Stop Summer Hunger Act and the Summer Meals Act, which could help alleviate hunger for many children during the summer months while school is not in session. As Congress returns to work this fall to pass funding for Fiscal Year 2015 it is important that programs like WIC and the school meal programs continue to be supported and available for children. When it comes to the health and well being of kids, we can’t afford to take any steps back in our efforts to provide all children access to healthy food so that they have a better chance at becoming healthy and productive adults.