Overview

Last updated: June 23, 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.

Food Insufficiency Rates by Race / Ethnicity Graph

  • Summary Points

    • According to data from the Census Household Pulse Survey data, rates of food insufficiency (“sometimes” or “often” not having enough to eat) remained high at the beginning of June at 11.1 percent, compared to 11.2 percent in both early May and in early April. Rates have been steadily increasing since August 2021, when they were at 7.8 percent.
    • Breakdown by race/ethnicity: Racial disparities remain high: rates of food insufficiency are 2.8 times higher among Black adults (21.9 percent) compared to White adults (7.8 percent) and 2.1 times higher among Latinx adults (16.1 percent) compared to White adults.
    • Breakdown by family type: Food insufficiency also remains high for families. In early May, 14.8 percent of households with children reported food insufficiency, compared to 15.1 percent in early May and 14.5 percent in early April.
    • Breakdown by gender identity and sexual orientation: In early June, 12.4 percent of women reported food insufficiency compared to 9.6 percent of men (difference of 2.8 percentage points), a wider disparity than in May or April (difference of 1.4 percentage points).

    Food insufficiency rates are higher for transgender individuals (26.1 percent, compared to about 10.6 percent of cisgender respondents). Overall, food insufficiency rates were 15.6 percent among those who identified as LGBT, 10.0 percent among those who did not identify as LGBT, and 20.4 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 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 May 2021 to May 2022, the cost of food rose 11.9 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 7.0-8.0 percent in 2022.

    Of the respondents in the Pulse survey who reported food insufficiency in early June, 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 and remained high from early May to early June.
    • Disparities persist by race and ethnicity and have increased by gender.
    • To ensure an equitable recovery, Congress should immediately pass the Keep Kids Fed Act 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