Overview

Last updated: August 25, 2021
Food insufficiency, which means sometimes or often not having enough to eat, has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Certain populations are experiencing higher levels of food insufficiency as a result of systemic inequalities that pre-date the pandemic.

Food Insufficiency in the U.S.

  • Summary Data

    • According to Census Household Pulse Survey data, rates of food insufficiency (“sometimes” or “often” not having enough to eat) increased from 7.8 percent in early August to 8.6 percent in late August.
    • Breakdown by race/ethnicity: Food insufficiency rates slightly increased for most racial/ethnic groups. 
    • Breakdown by family type: Progress in reducing food insufficiency among households with children reversed in August. Rates increased from a pandemic low of 9.5 percent in early August to 11.2 percent in late August. In comparison, food insufficiency rates among households without children remained virtually unchanged (6.8 to 7.0 percent from early to late August). 
    • Breakdown by gender identity and sexual orientation: Food insufficiency rates were highest among transgender individuals (30.3 percent compared to 8.2 percent of cisgender respondents). Overall food insufficiency rates were 13.7 percent among LGBT individuals, 7.6 percent among non-LGBT individuals, and 18.0 percent among those who identify as another sexual orientation (e.g., intersex, asexual). Read this post for more on the new Pulse survey and LGBT communities.

  • Economic Context to Explain Increase in Food Insufficiency

    • Economic Context: Job growth stalled in August, possibly due to increased transmission of the COVID-19 delta variant, and unemployment increased among Black workers. In addition, the cost of food increased sharply in June and July, which will continue to increase the risk for food insufficiency.
    • Of the respondents who reported food insufficiency in late August, 79 percent indicated that it was because they “couldn’t afford to buy more food.”

  • Key Takeaways

    • Changes in food insufficiency rates continue to be driven by households with children. While rates declined after receipt of the Child Tax Credit, increased rates of food insufficiency from early to late August indicate that these families are still struggling financially.
    • To ensure an equitable recovery, benefits should not be ended too early and leave behind those who are still struggling to put food on the table.

Data Visualizations

Mapping Food Insufficiency

The map shows the average rate of food insufficiency, which means sometimes or often not having enough to eat, in the previous seven days. Food insufficiency rates are calculated from the Census Household Pulse Survey data.

Explore the Map

Comparing States

The bar graphs show the average rate of food insufficiency, which means sometimes or often not having enough to eat, in the previous seven days. Food insufficiency rates are calculated from the Census Household Pulse Survey data.

Make Your Comparisons

Hunger, Poverty, and Health Disparities During COVID-19 and the Federal Nutrition Programs’ Role in an Equitable Recovery

The health and economic crises brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has made the federal nutrition programs more important than ever. FRAC’s latest report is a review of new research on how the federal nutrition programs reduce hunger, poverty, and health, including their efficacy during the pandemic, and concludes with policy recommendations to leverage the federal nutrition programs for a robust and equitable recovery.

Learn More