Overview

Last updated: August 17, 2022
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 Points

    • According to data from the Census Household Pulse Survey data, rates of food insufficiency (“sometimes” or “often” not having enough to eat) decreased to 11.5 in early August compared to 11.9 percent in early July. Rates have been steadily increasing over the past year, when they were at 7.8 percent in August 2021.
    • Breakdown by race/ethnicity: In the last month, food insufficiency rates decreased for Black adults (from 25.9 down to 21.0 percent) and increased for Latinx adults (from 16.2 to 15.3 percent). Rates of food insecurity continue to be more than twice as high for Black and Latinx adults compared to White adults.
    • Breakdown by family type: Food insufficiency rates among households with children decreased from 16.2 to 15.3 percent, driven largely by a decline in food insufficiency among Black households with children.
    • Breakdown by gender identity and sexual orientation: In early July, 13.1 percent of women reported food insufficiency compared to 9.8 percent of men.

    Food insufficiency rates are higher for transgender individuals (29.1 percent, compared to about 11.0 percent of cisgender respondents). Overall, food insufficiency rates were 15.7 percent among those who identified as LGBT, 10.4 percent among those who did not identify as LGBT, and 23.8 percent among those who identified as another sexual orientation (e.g., intersex, asexual).

    A limitation of these data is the small sample size with each data release, which results in estimates that fluctuate frequently. However, the data consistently show disparities for respondents identifying as transgender or LGBT. This article published by the Washington Post explores the reasons for this disparity.

  • Context to Explain Persistently High Food Insufficiency

    • Economic Context: Increases in the price of most goods, including food, rent, and medical care, putting pressure on household budgets and the risk for food insufficiency. From July 2021 to July 2022, the cost of food from the grocery store rose 13.1 percent. The U.S. Department of Agriculture expects grocery store food prices to continue to increase through the end of the year, estimating a total increase of 10-11 percent in 2022.

    Of the respondents in the Pulse survey who reported food insufficiency in early July, 82 percent indicated that it was because they “couldn’t afford to buy more food.”

    In addition, 40 percent of respondents reported finding it “somewhat” or “very” difficult to pay for usual household expenses, which is higher than the rate of financial hardship in January 2021.

  • Key Takeaways

    • Despite a slight decline from July to August, rates of food insufficiency remain higher than at almost any other time during the pandemic, with the exception of Oct through Dec of 2020.
    • Over twice as many Black and Latinx households report food insufficiency than White adults.
    • To ensure an equitable recovery, the Public Health Emergency (and with it, emergency allotments through SNAP), should not be ended too early and leave behind those who are still struggling to put food on the table. See FRAC’s Action Center for bills we’re supporting and how you can get involved.

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