In 2018, around 11% of U.S. households report that they are food insecure at some point U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) – means those without reliable access to an adequate amount of quality food. In April 2020, the percentage of households deemed food insecure was estimated at 22-38%. Thus, at least, the number of households lacking resources for a stable food supply has doubled, and perhaps tripled, making the current level of food insecurity higher than at any point since data collection began.
Even more troubling, according to Brookings, one survey concluded that more than 17% of mothers with children under the age of 12 reported that since the Covid-19 pandemic began, “the children in my household did not eat enough because we could not afford enough food.” This finding is part of a multi-use survey initiative validated question from the USDA to understand trends.
But the lack of resources is not just about food itself, it’s about all other related and fundamental issues relating to how we access quality food and who can afford it. For example, households that are food insecure 47% more likely to visit the emergency room, and get accepted. Lack of access to nutritious food has been shown to cause obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and a myriad of other health problems.
Food insecurity is also emotional, and is a significant source of family stress. For adults and children, the fear associated with not knowing where food is coming will have an impact on mental health. This includes increased reports of depression, anxiety, and suicide ideas. All of these are health care issues – despite the fact that food itself is not often considered “health care.”
However, research has been linked programs like SNAP (Additional Nutrition Assistance Program) with better health outcomes and lower health care costs. The same can be said for the second largest anti-hunger effort in the US, the National School Lunch Program (second after SNAP) that feeds almost 30 million children every day. Or – do it before the Covid-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, the benefits of overcoming the needs of the most vulnerable foods are not able to meet demand in the current situation.
The same can be said for food banks as they struggle with increasing demand since the beginning of the pandemic. According to the National Institute for Health Care Management (NIHCM) Foundation, 98% of food banks in America report an increase in demand, with about 40% reporting an immediate critical shortage. Feed America emphasized that there was “increased demand” and “plummeting supply” as a direct result of this pandemic. They also argue that nearly 70% of food banks need volunteers to help.
Given the deep-rooted and complex challenges associated with food supply and distribution, there is no quick policy fix. If the school reopens and parents return to work, some of the insecurity can be filled, but there is no guarantee. Profit can definitely be increased and the distribution chain can be made more efficient, but the trauma of food security created during Covid-19 will be felt for some time. And it might be made worse by the second wave of shutdowns.
Volunteers needed. Donation is required. Funds needed. And, finding your neighbor is very important. There is no individual solution to this growing problem. This will really take the village.
To learn more about food insecurity in the U.S., in your state, congressional district, and county, visit: Map the Food Gap by Feeding America.
And if you or someone you know is currently struggling to feed a loved one, here are some programs and agency efforts that can help:
to request modification Contact us at Here or [email protected]