18 million U.S. households struggling to feed families

Almost 18 million American homes struggled to find enough to eat in 2011, including 3.9 million homes with children, or 10 percent of all families with children, according to numbers released on Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Even worse off were single mothers and black and Latino households, the survey found.

As NPR notes, "People went hungry."

The survey tracked families who had some issues with finding enough food, dubbed "food insecure," and those deemed "very very food insecure," who lacked basic nutrition at some point during the year. The latter category includes some 6.8 million households nationwide in which adults skipped meals, couldn't afford balanced meals, and worried about having enough money to buy food several months out of the year.

In all, the "food insecure" represented 5.7 percent of American households. It's not much of a change compared with 2010, but it's 2 percent more—thousands of people more—since 1998.

[Related: Going hungry in America]

The survey results come just a day after the same agency announced that food stamps—known officially as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program--reached an all-time high in the U.S. in June, with more than 46 million Americans using help to buy food. Food stamps also reached an all-time high annual cost of $75.7 billion for the fiscal year ending in Sept. 2011, according to Bloomberg News. Almost half of those on food stamps are children.

Meanwhile food stamps and other assistance programs have taken center stage in the national political debate leading up to the presidential election.

A spokesperson for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney told Bloomberg that the increase in food stamps is a sign that the country is not better off than it was four years ago. And during primary season, then-GOP candidate Newt Gingrich lashed out at Barack Obama as the "food stamp president."

"It's one more example of government incompetence," Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions told Bloomberg.

At the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., this week, Rep. Barney Frank told The Daily Caller that there would be fewer people on food stamps if the Republicans cooperated more with stimulus spending, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson said that food stamps help farmers and grocery businesses.

"It's why I wish we got more cooperation from the Republicans in trying to do the things that would help us economically like not have the cities have to layoff firefighters and cops," Rep. Frank, D-Mass., said.

"Providing a safety net for the needy is morally correct and when the economy gets better, those numbers will go down," Jackson said.