Last updated: February 23, 2023
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.
FRAC’s Food Insufficiency During COVID-19 Dashboard includes
- Summary Points
- According to data from the Census Household Pulse Survey data, the rate of food insufficiency (“sometimes” or “often” not having enough to eat) in February 2023 (11.4 percent) was similar to the rate in January (11.2 percent).
Rates have been steadily increasing over the past year, from a low of 7.8 percent in August 2021 to a high of 11.9 in July 2022. Since July, rates have remained between 11.0-11.5 percent.
- Breakdown by race/ethnicity: In the last month, food insufficiency rates increased slightly for Black adults (19.7 percent in February and 19.3 percent in January) and decreased for Latinx adults (from 18.1 percent to 16.9 percent). Rates of food insufficiency continue to be over twice as high for Black and Latinx adults compared to White adults (8.6 percent in February).
Higher rates of food insufficiency in Black and Latinx communities are due to systemic racism that results in higher levels of poverty, disinvestment in access to healthy foods or quality education, wage discrimination, and other root causes of hunger.
- Breakdown by family type: Food insufficiency rates among households with children increased (14.4 percent in February compared to 13.5 percent in January).
- Breakdown by gender identity and sexual orientation: In February, 12.6 percent of women reported food insufficiency compared to 10.2 percent of men.
Food insufficiency rates are higher for transgender individuals (31.2 percent, compared to about 10.9 percent of cisgender respondents). Overall, food insufficiency rates were 17.0 percent among those who identified as LGBT, 10.2 percent among those who did not identify as LGBT, and 22.9 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. Reasons include discrimination that lead to fewer employment opportunities and higher levels of poverty.
- 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 January 2022 to January 2023, the cost of food from the grocery store rose 11.3 percent. The U.S. Department of Agriculture expects grocery store food prices to continue to increase in 2023 by 8.6 percent.
Of the respondents in the Pulse survey who reported food insufficiency in January, 83 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 was in January 2021.
- Key Takeaways
- Rates of food insufficiency remain higher than at almost any other time during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the exception of higher rates from Oct through Dec of 2020.
- Twice as many Black and Latino households report food insufficiency than White adults due to persistent barriers resulting from structural racism.
- See FRAC’s Action Center for bills we’re supporting and how you can get involved.
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.
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.
Impact of COVID-19 on Special Populations
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.