WASHINGTON - Record numbers of households struggled at times last year to feed their families, the Department of Agriculture said in a report Wednesday on the state of hunger in America.

A lack of resources forced others to cut back on meals and disrupt their usual eating patterns, it said.

A record 17.9 million households -- 700,000 more than in 2010 -- didn't have enough food at all times last year to sustain active, healthy lives for all family members, the report said.

This "food insecurity" affected a record 14.9 percent of U.S. households and more than 50 million people, about one in six U.S. residents.

Moreover, more than one in three "food insecure" households -- 6.8 million -- had "very low food security," meaning that one or more family members cut back on eating last year because of a lack of either money or other access to food, the report said. That's an increase of 400,000 households over 2010.

After falling to 5.4 percent in 2010, the percentage of households with very low food security rose to 5.7 percent last year, matching the record levels in 2008 and 2009 at the height of the economic collapse, the USDA said.

The effect on children was significant.

Nearly 9 million children lived in food-insecure households last year, and 845,000 were in households with very low food security.

"These numbers show the impact of the recession has not gone away yet." said Jim Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center.