Families Face Massive Food Insecurity Levels
A recent study released by Feeding America indicates that after nearly 10 years, food insecurity levels for most communities across the country, including Kentucky, had reached crisis levels. Families Face Massive Food Insecurity Levels
Food insecurity is a measure defined by the USDA as lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members.
That analysis shows that progress made to food insecurity in the U.S. this past decade will likely be wiped out and food insecurity rates will climb higher than the peak of the Great Recession, potentially going from more than 37 million people facing hunger in 2018 up to more than 54 million in 2020. In Kentucky, an additional 234,000 people could become food insecure in the wake of the slow-down.
Per Map the Meal Gap 2020, food insecurity exists in all 120 counties. Kentucky has the eighth-highest rate of overall food insecurity in the United States.
The report also shows that children are more likely to be food insecure, with the child food insecurity rate at 18.9% compared to 14.8% for the overall population for Kentucky. Kentucky’s child food-insecurity rates remain higher than the national rate of 15.2%.
Overall food insecurity in Kentucky ranges from a low of 6.9% of the population in Oldham County up to 24.8% in Harlan County. The analysis also finds that 33% of residents of Kentucky who are food insecure are likely ineligible for federal nutrition assistance under current program requirements.
This means that many households must rely even more on charitable food assistance. According to the economic impact analysis, all counties across the country will likely see increased rates of food insecurity. In Kentucky, the pandemic is projected to increase the food insecurity rate by 35%. Nearly 900,000 Kentuckians (897,000) Kentuckians may experience food insecurity because of COVID-19.
Analysis shows that progress made to food insecurity in the U.S. this past decade will likely be wiped out and food insecurity rates will climb higher than the peak of the Great Recession of 50 million people, potentially going from more than 37 million people facing hunger in 2018 up to more than 54 million in 2020.
“Map the Meal Gap shows once again that not one single county in this country is free from hunger,” said Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, chief executive officer of Feeding America. “In the decade before the pandemic, we made progress in finally returning to pre-Great Recession levels of food insecurity, though that number was still regrettably high. That fragile progress has given way under the weight of this crisis. The Feeding America network of food banks knows all too well the precarious nature of household budgets. We also know that the work that we do has great potential to help and we cannot make meaningful progress alone. Our vision is an America where no one is hungry. Join us in making that mission a reality for the tens of millions of people out there who need us now more than ever.”
Per Map the Meal Gap 2020, all 3,142 counties and county equivalents as well as 436 congressional districts in all 50 states are home to people who struggle with hunger.
The percentage of the population estimated to be food insecure in 2018 ranges from a low of 3.6% of the population in Burke County, North Dakota up to 30.4% in Jefferson County, Mississippi. Child food insecurity rates range from 2.4% in Falls Church City, Virginia to 43.7% in East Carroll Parish, Louisiana.
According to the COVID-19 impact analysis, the food insecurity rates for all counties across the country will likely see increases.
For example, Jefferson County, Mississippi, the county with the highest overall food insecurity rate is projected to increase from 30.4% to 34.2% this year.
Burke County, North Dakota, which had the lowest overall food insecurity rate in 2018, is projected to see a food insecurity rate (9.2%) more than 2.5 times its most recent rate (3.6%). In East Carroll Parish, Louisiana, more than half the child population is projected to be food insecure, with the rate going from 43.7% to 52.5% because of the pandemic.
While food insecurity affects every community, people of color and African Americans, in particular, are disproportionately impacted as a result of structural disparities. In 2018, food insecurity among African American households was more than twice that of white, non-Hispanic households according to the USDA.
Structural and institutional racism have positioned communities of color as particularly vulnerable to the economic fallout and health consequences of this pandemic. Systemic barriers to jobs less likely to be affected by the pandemic, lower than average wages, and greater employment instability all contribute to African American workers being more at risk of experiencing food insecurity.
Both pre-pandemic and in 2020, counties with the highest rates of food insecurity are overrepresented by counties with a majority African American population. For example, in Jefferson County, Mississippi, which has the highest food insecurity rate in 2018 and highest projected rate in 2020, 86% of the population is African American.
These Feeding America studies underscore the extent of need that remains in communities across the United States. Food insecurity is a measure defined by the USDA as lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members.
Other Key Findings Of Map The Meal Gap 2020 Include:
* One-third of people who are food insecure may not qualify for federal food assistance. Virtually every county (97%) is home to people who are food insecure and likely ineligible for such assistance, and there are 115 counties in which a majority of people estimated to be food insecure is unlikely to qualify.
* Counties with the highest rates of food insecurity are disproportionately rural. Rural counties – those outside of major metropolitan areas – make up 63% of all U.S counties, but 87% of counties with food insecurity rates in the top 10%.
* An estimated 84% of counties with the highest rates of food insecurity – those that rank in the top 10% of all 3,142 counties – are in the South. Since the South contains 45% of all U.S. counties, this region is home to a disproportionately high number of counties with the highest rates of food insecurity.
“Hunger in America must become unacceptable for all of us,” Babineaux-Fontenot continued. “There were 37 million people facing hunger before the pandemic, but most people had no idea. If there is any ‘silver lining’ to the dark cloud of this pandemic, it is that the American public is far better informed about the food crisis that has accompanied the health one. We know it will take an entire network of support, including food banks, partner agencies like food pantries, federal nutrition programs, the food industry, and the public to make the progress that is so desperately needed.”
Map the Meal Gap 2020 uses data from USDA, the Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics and food price data and analysis provided by Nielsen, a global measurement and data analytics company. The study is supported by Conagra Brands Foundation and Nielsen.
“Conagra Brands Foundation is proud to partner with Feeding America and food banks across the country to help provide food to children, teenagers, adults and senior citizens. Helping to increase awareness of this critical issue, which affects every community in America, has never been more important,” said Robert J. Rizzo, Senior Director, Community Investment, Conagra Brands and Conagra Brands Foundation.
In addition to food-insecurity estimates, Map the Meal Gap reports on food price variation across counties. Using data from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS), the study finds that, on average, food-secure individuals report spending $3.09 per person, per meal as of 2018. This is essentially the same as the national average of $3.02 ($3.09 in 2018 dollars) as reported in Map the Meal Gap last year.
After adjusting the national average meal cost of $3.09 based on local sales taxes and Nielsen data on relative food prices, Map the Meal Gap 2020 finds that county meal costs range from 69% of the national average in places like Llano County, Texas($2.14) to more than double the average cost in places like New York County, New York($6.19).
“Nielsen is proud to continue our decade long data and analytics partnership to Map the Meal Gap. Eliminating hunger is especially urgent with so many vulnerable people during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said David Rawlinson, CEO, Nielsen Global Connect.
Dr. Craig Gundersen, Professor of Agricultural and Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois, Executive Director of the National Soybean Research Laboratory and a member of Feeding America’s Technical Advisory Group is the lead researcher of Map the Meal Gap 2020 and the food insecurity projection analysis.
Map The Meal Gap 2020 Provides The Following Data Online Through An Interactive Map:
* The estimated percentage of the population and number of individuals who are food insecure in every U.S. state, county and congressional district, as well as the service area of each Feeding America food bank.
* The percentage of the food-insecure population who likely qualifies for SNAP and other federal nutrition programs.
* The percentage of the food-insecure population who likely does not qualify for federal nutrition programs and thus must rely even more on charitable food assistance. These percentages reflect individuals in households with earnings that are higher than the state gross income limits for federal nutrition programs.
* The average meal cost in every state and county.
* The food budget shortfall in every state and county.
The Map the Meal Gap 2020map allows policymakers, state agencies, corporate partners, food banks and advocates to develop integrated strategies to fight hunger on a community level.
Separately, a new interactive map shows the 2020 food insecurity projections compared to the most recent Map the Meal Gap data. To account for local unemployment variation, this new analysis adjusts the national annual unemployment projection due to COVID-19 using projected changes in the unemployment rate by industry and occupation from Goldman Sachs Investment Research and actual percentages of workers by industry from the American Community Survey.
Along with the interactive map and visualizations, Feeding America has also published a series of report briefs, including a summary of key findings as well as analyses on child food insecurity, food price variation and health, disability and food insecurity.
Federal nutrition assistance programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), serve as the first line of defense against hunger.
However, not everyone who is food insecure qualifies for these federal programs. As of 2018, one in three (32%) food-insecure individuals who reported income lived in households unlikely to qualify for most federal food assistance.
These findings underscore the importance of protecting and strengthening the existing safety net of public food assistance while also investing in the charitable programs that help to fill the gap for people who are not eligible. To join Feeding America’s Campaign to End Hunger, visit feedingamerica.org/act.
Nearly 30 Million Americans Reported Not Having Enough Food Last Week
Nearly 30 million people in the United States reported they did not have enough to eat last week in a new peak since May, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s weekly Household Pulse Survey data.
The survey data shows that about 23.9 million of 249 million respondents indicated they had “sometimes not enough to eat” for the week ending July 21 and 5.42 million more indicated they had “often not enough to eat.”
In total, about 12 percent of respondents reported not having enough food.
This week marked the highest number of respondents who reported insufficient access to food since the census began the Household Pulse Survey 12 weeks ago in May.
The new survey data comes as the pandemic continues to take an economic toll on Americans.
At the end of this week the additional $600 in unemployment benefits and the federal eviction moratorium granted in the CARES Act expire.
Lawmakers have talked about extending the moratorium and the unemployment benefits, but have not been able to reach a deal. Senate Republicans are pushing to lower the weekly benefit.
The same survey found that about 51 percent of respondents are experiencing a form of unemployment and over 26 percent are experiencing housing insecurity.
This week unemployment claims rose for a second straight week as an addition 1.4 million people filed for benefits.
Updated: Abu Dhabi Turns To Poultry, Fish Farms For Food Security
The oil-rich desert emirate of Abu Dhabi is investing 524 million dirhams ($143 million) to boost local production of produce, fish, cattle and poultry in its push to improve food security.
Much of the money will go toward using new technologies to improve large-scale production of food in climate-controlled conditions, the Abu Dhabi Government Media Office said Tuesday in a tweet.
Abu Dhabi — like the rest of the United Arab Emirates — must import most of its food. The coronavirus pandemic, however, has laid bare the UAE’s vulnerability to disruptions in foreign food supplies.
The biggest single investment is 150 million dirhams for Emirates National Poultry Farms, according to the tweet. The other outlays are for projects by Mirak Agricultural, Aqua Fisheries, Alfafa Co. and Al Nahdha Farm. Abu Dhabi Investment Office is making the investments in cooperation with the Abu Dhabi Agricultural & Food Safety Authority.
Join the conversation about Map the Meal Gap 2020 on Twitter using #MealGap.
About Feeding America
Feeding America® is the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States. Through a network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs, we provide meals to more than 40 million people each year.
Feeding America also supports programs that prevent food waste and improve food security among the people we serve; educates the public about the problem of hunger; and advocates for legislation that protects people from going hungry. Visit www.feedingamerica.org, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.
Zuani Villarreal, Feeding America
More Americans Add Retirement Insecurity To Their Food Insecurity
A Boston College study shows the pandemic worsens an already grim trend.
How much has the pandemic hurt Americans’ retirement security?
Not as much as you might think.
After improving slightly in 2019, the outlook for financial security in retirement for workers ages 30 to 59 deteriorated in 2020, according to a study released Tuesday by Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research.
According to the study, 51% of U.S. households are now at risk of being unable to maintain their standard of living in retirement. That is up from 49% in 2019.
Considering the scale of the 2020 pandemic shock to the global economy, the deterioration was relatively modest. Rising home and stock prices counteracted some of the impact of sharply higher unemployment, said Alicia Munnell, an economist at Boston College and the center’s director.
In 2007, only 40% of U.S. households were considered at risk of falling short in retirement, down a tick from 41% in 2004, when Boston College began publishing the calculation. The percentage has hovered around 50% for the past decade, reflecting the effects of the financial crisis.
Reasons for the long-term increase in households at risk include a rise in the age at which people can claim full Social Security benefits, to 67 for people born in 1960 or later.
Other reasons include longer life expectancies and the long-term decline in interest rates, which has reduced the amount of income retirees can earn on their savings. The results don’t measure the amount by which households at risk are likely to fall short.
The center derives its estimate of the percentage of households at risk of falling short in retirement by using data on wealth and income from the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances, which is conducted every three years.
The researchers project household wealth in retirement. They typically deem those on track to replace less than 65% to 75% of their preretirement income—the exact percentage varies by household—at risk of being unable to maintain their living standard. The researchers assume people work until age 65, when they claim Social Security and start tapping their retirement accounts and home equity.
The center projected 2020 results by estimating the number of workers affected by job loss and projecting the impact on their future earnings and savings. The projections also included the impact of rising home and stock prices on wealth.
Hunger Hits Highest In Years As Global Recession Hits Income
The world faced its worst hunger problem in at least five years in 2020 on the back of the coronavirus crisis, and the outlook remains grim again this year.
Some 155 million people across 55 countries — more than the population of Russia — suffered from issues ranging from a food crisis to famine, according to a report with data from more than a dozen agencies.
That’s up 20 million from 2019, with economic shocks overtaking extreme weather as the No. 2 cause.
The worsening situation highlights how the pandemic has exacerbated food inequalities around the world, on top of extreme weather and political conflicts that are stifling access to key staples. Consumers are now also contending with rising food costs as rampant Chinese demand stretches global crop supplies.
“Covid-19 has been exacerbating fragilities,” said Dominique Burgeon, director of emergencies and resilience at the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. “Its restrictions, for example, on the movement of goods and people, has resulted in widespread income losses, especially for those people who rely on informal work in urban households.”
Conflict and insecurity remain the largest causes of hunger, responsible for almost two-thirds of those facing food crises, according to the report created with help from agencies including the European Commission and United Nations World Food Programme. The Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen and Afghanistan are some of the most-affected nations.
The number of people facing hunger primarily from economic shocks, including those related to the pandemic that cut jobs and incomes, jumped nearly 70% last year to 40.5 million.
That shows the toll Covid-19 has taken on food insecurity, and more economic pain is expected in 2021, David Beasley, the WFP’s executive director, said Wednesday in a webinar.
Supply chain disruptions also caused spikes in food prices, while higher inflation or weaker currencies in import-dependent nations made food less affordable, according to the report. Women have been particularly hard hit, as they’ve been more vulnerable to losing jobs.
Global hunger is expected to hold above pre-pandemic levels this year, affecting more than 142 million across 40 countries, the report showed. Conflicts remain a problem and economic hardship could intensify due to the coronavirus crisis, the agencies said.
Last year, about 28 million people were in an “emergency” state of food insecurity, or worse.
“We are extremely concerned,” Burgeon said. “When we look at the early data we have from 2021, we see that this number has already increased.”
Biden Administration Approves Largest Increase To Food Assistance Benefits In SNAP Program History
The Biden administration has approved the largest increase to food assistance benefits in the history of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), in a move that will substantially retool the program to provide the targeted assistance advocates have long said is desperately needed by poor families.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will announce Monday morning that benefit amounts for the program, formerly known as food stamps, will rise an average of 25 percent above pre-pandemic levels.
The increases are based on an update to the Thrifty Food Plan, the formula used to calculate benefits, which surveys the changing costs of various categories of food.
First reported by the New York Times and confirmed by a spokeswoman at the USDA, average monthly benefits, which were $121 per person before the pandemic, will rise by $36 under the new rules.
Many anti-hunger advocates have long believed the Thrifty Food Plan’s metrics are out of date with the economic realities most struggling households face. They say the plan, formulated in the 1960s, was designed when many American families still had only one working parent, giving the other parent more time for labor-intensive, but cheaper, cooking from scratch.
In the past two decades, more working families are made up of two wage earners or a single-parent, leaving less time for soaking beans and simmering stews. The Biden administration has asked the USDA to revise the Thrifty Food Plan to better reflect the modern cost of a healthy basic diet.
During the Trump administration, coronavirus relief bills did not expand SNAP for the 40 percent of recipients already receiving the maximum benefit. In January, Biden signed an executive order allowing states to increase SNAP emergency allotments, allowing an additional 12 million people to receive enhanced benefits.
As the pandemic triggered, high unemployment and shortages in food banks and pantries around the country, Vilsack was charged with reimagining food assistance programs, which account for over two-thirds of USDA’s budget. SNAP, WIC (a program for pregnant women, infants and young children), Pandemic-EBT, (a program meant to replace free or subsidized meals for kids now learning online) and school meal programs have all seen temporary expansions, many of which are poised to expire in September.
The changes to SNAP are permanent, aimed at addressing pandemic-related surge in hunger in America, when projections predicted 50 million people, including 17 million children, would be considered food insecure by the end of 2020. But, advocates say, the infusion of funding corrects benefits that fall far short of demonstrated need, a problem they say has existed for at least a decade.