Overview

Last updated: April 21, 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) increased significantly to 11.2 percent in early April compared to 10.3 percent in early March. Rates have been steadily increasing since August 2021, when they were at 7.8 percent.
    • Breakdown by race/ethnicity: In the last month, food insufficiency rates slightly decreased for Black adults (from 20.4 to 19.8 percent) and increased for Latinx adults (from 16.2 to 20.5 percent).
    • Breakdown by family type: From early March to early April, food insufficiency rates among with children increased from 13.5 to 14.5 percent.
    • Breakdown by gender identity and sexual orientation: In early April, 11.9 percent of women reported food insufficiency compared to 10.5 percent of men. Because rates rose faster among men, disparities decreased.

    Food insufficiency rates are higher for transgender individuals (24.1 percent, compared to about 10.8 percent of cisgender respondents). Overall, food insufficiency rates were 15.5 percent among those who identified as LGBT, 10.2 percent among those who did not identify as LGBT, and 21.4 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 on December 31 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. Food prices are expected to continue to increase through the end of the year, though at a slower rate.

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

  • Key Takeaways

    • Rates of food insufficiency have steadily increased since August of 2021, but the increase from early March to early April was the steepest month-to-month increase since the summer of 2021 (early August to early September 2021).
    • Disparities persist by gender, race, and ethnicity.
    • To ensure an equitable recovery, school nutrition waivers and 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