Overview

Last updated: October 21, 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) remained the same from late September to early October (9.4 percent). Rates had been increasing since early August (7.8 percent).
    • Breakdown by race/ethnicity: Food insufficiency rates increased for adults identifying as multiracial or another race (likely an effect of small sample size) but stayed relatively constant for all other racial and ethnic groups.
    • Breakdown by family type: From late September to early October, food insufficiency rates among households with children increased slightly from 11.3 to 11.8 percent while rates among households without children decreased from 8.4 to 7.9 percent. 
    • Breakdown by gender identity and sexual orientation: Food insufficiency rates are higher for transgender individuals (17.5 percent) but are still higher than rates among cisgender individuals (about 8.9 percent). Overall food insufficiency rates were 12.4 percent among LGBT individuals, 8.5 percent among non-LGBT individuals, and 23.2 percent among those who identify as another sexual orientation (e.g., intersex, asexual). A limitation of these data is the small sample size, which results in estimates that fluctuate frequently. However, the data consistently show disparities for respondents identifying as transgender or LBGT. 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 has stalled in August and September, possibly due to increased transmission of the COVID-19 delta variant, and unemployment increased among Black workers. In addition, the cost of food is expected to keep increasing through the end of the year, which will continue to increase the risk for food insufficiency.
    • Of the respondents who reported food insufficiency in early October, 82 percent indicated that it was because they “couldn’t afford to buy more food.”

  • Key Takeaways

    • The plateau in the rise of food insufficiency is good news, but rates are higher than they were over the summer and disparities by race, ethnicity, and gender persist.
    • The Child Tax Credit is an anti-hunger tool and should be made permanent. The disparity in food insufficiency rates between households with children and households without children has been smaller since the implementation of the Child Tax Credit in July, and recent research finds that it reduces food insufficiency.
    • 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