Before getting into the statistics, let’s start with the on-the-ground reality: real people, often with small children, are too poor to feed themselves and their families properly. For the human impact of pandemic poverty, see:
- New York Times Magazine: America at Hunger’s Edge
Prior to the pandemic, poverty and food insecurity were declining in America.
- Census Bureau report: official poverty rate was 10.5 percent in 2019, down from 11.8 percent in 2018
- USDA Household Food Security report, 2019: 10.5 percent of American households were food insecure at least some time in 2019, down from 11.1 percent in 2018.
But now we have pandemic-induced illness, job losses, school closures, business closures.
- Food Research & Action Center report: more than one in 10 adults with children say they do not have enough to eat. The rates are double for Black and Latino households with children.
- IRI Market Research report: SNAP enrollments include 13% of American households (but this can be good for the retail food business)
The USDA won’t report on food insecurity for another year, so it’s difficult to know what’s happening right now. USDA data on SNAP are available only through April.
Even then, early signs were alarming.
We badly need effective policies to protect people against hunger.
Additional USDA resources
- Food Security in the U.S. Food security—access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life—is one requirement for a healthy, well-nourished population. ERS plays a leading role in Federal research on food security in U.S. households and communities.
- Food Security in the United States: This product provides information about publicly available data from national surveys that include the U.S. Food Security Survey Module. Technical information is provided to facilitate appropriate use of the data, and links are provided to access data online or to order the data files on CD-ROM.
- Statistical Supplement to Household Food Security in the United States in 2019: This supplement to Household Food Security in the United States in 2019 describes food insecurity and how it is assessed.