The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported Wednesday that the number of US residents who are “food insecure” remains elevated at recession, or 2008, levels. USDA data shows that, in 2012, 17.6 million US households struggled with having enough food.

The USDA defines “food security” as “access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.” According to their data, 7 million households had “very low food security” last year, essentially the same number as in 2011.

Of the people struggling to have enough food, only 59 percent used a government assistance program such as the food stamp program, Women, Infants and Children or National School lunch programs, The Hill reports.

Less than half of the food insecure population, about 47 million people, used the food stamp program last year. Conservatives are looking to cut the food stamp program by about $40 billion over 10 years, via this year’s farm bill.

In June, 26 members of Congress, all Democrats, pledged to live off of food stamps for a week in protest of cuts made by House Republicans.

Many Conservatives have made the prejudiced generalization that people who require government assistance for food are lazy, unemployed individuals who are simply living off the government. Yet, as the USDA data shows, less than half of the population struggling with food security even use government programs.

A Department of Agriculture report shows that most participants in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) are either children or elderly. The report also states that about 30 percent of SNAP households had job earnings in 2010, and 41 percent of participants lived in a household with job earnings. For the majority of households, job earnings were the primary source of income.

Perhaps, rather than accusing people of mooching off the government for food, Conservatives should take a hard look at the reasons why government food assistance has increased since the financial Recession in 2008.

During a time of high corporate profits, worker wages have remained stagnant. Last year wages fell to a record low of 43.5 percent of the GDP, the New York Times reported.

A sizeable, and continually increasing, share of overall wages goes to the top 1 percent – 12.9 percent in 2010. Meanwhile, costs have risen, and employee compensation such as health and retirement benefits, has fallen substantially during the time that corporate profits hit their highest share.

And while worker productivity grew 80 percent from 1973 to 2011, median hourly pay, adjusted for inflation, grew by only one-eighth during that same time. A recent study shows that the average American household earns less today than it did at the end of the Recession.

Americans’ Income Lower Now than at Recession’s End

Alisha is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. Follow her on Twitter @childoftheearth.