About 3.5 million more American families went hungry after food prices spiked and the pandemic-era child tax credit ended – DIGIWIZ CENTRAL

About 3.5 million more American families went hungry after food prices spiked and the pandemic-era child tax credit ended

Volunteers and staff serve food to people in New York on May 6, 2023.

Selcuk Acar/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

3.5 million more US households were food insecure in 2022, a recent report showed.
Elevated food prices could be one reason, said Chloe East, a visiting fellow at the Hamilton Project at Brookings.
There was also an increase in food insecurity for households with children from 2021 to 2022.

About 3.5 million more US households were food insecure for at least part of 2022 than in 2021. The increase is the biggest uptick since the 2008 financial crisis.

That’s according to a new US Department of Agriculture report. Food insecurity is when the “ability to acquire adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources,” per the report.

Around 17 million households, or 12.8% of US households, were food insecure in 2022. Additionally, 44.2 million people were in food-insecure households in 2022, soaring from 33.8 million in 2021.

Almost 7 million households were considered “very low food security” households, which the report defined as meaning “one or more household members experience reduced food intake and disrupted eating patterns at times during the year because of limited money and other resources for obtaining food.”

Chloe East, a visiting fellow at the Hamilton Project at Brookings and an associate professor of economics at the University of Colorado Denver, talked to Insider about why food insecurity in America may have soared.

“I think that the increase that we saw between 2021 and 2022 is striking and worrisome, but probably not surprising given changes in government-transfer policy and inflation that we’ve seen in the last couple of years in the US,” East said.

East said food inflation “certainly had an impact on households’ budgets and households’ ability to maintain an adequate and nutritious diet as well.”

One mitigating factor East highlighted “was a big reevaluation of the SNAP program,” which translated to a rise in the benefit amounts.

“I think it’s clear that we would’ve seen an even larger increase in food insecurity in 2022 if we hadn’t seen that meaningful jump up in SNAP benefits,” East said.

Lauren Hall, research analyst with the food assistance division at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, told Insider food insecurity was pretty stable during 2019 to 2021, “which is surprising in some ways because we would’ve expected maybe a larger increase because of how difficult we knew food hardship was during the pandemic.”

That could have been due to pandemic-relief programs, Hall said, like the expanded child tax credit.

“The uptick in food insecurity also occurred at a time when significant safety net enhancements that helped people through the worst of the pandemic began to end, including the expanded Child Tax Credit, universally free school meals, and, in a number of states, higher SNAP benefits,” Tom Vilsack, US secretary of agriculture, said in a statement.

Food insecurity soared in households with children

While the USDA report noted that kids “are usually shielded from the disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake that characterize very low food security,” many children saw food insecurity.

The report found 381,000 households had children facing very low food security in 2022, up from 274,000 households. That means “children were hungry, skipped a meal, or did not eat for a whole day because there was not enough money for food” in these households per the report. The report also noted 783,000 kids “lived in households with very low food security among children,” which is more than the 2021 figure.

Hall said the 40% increase in food insecurity for households with children, from 4.6 million households to 6.4 million households, was also discouraging given the large fall in 2021.

“All of a sudden we see an increase quite high, largely related to food prices and the end of the pandemic programs,” Hall said.

“It shows us that hardship, whether that’s poverty, whether that’s food insecurity, is a policy choice and we as a country can decide whether or not we want to address these issues or not, whether we want to provide support for people or not, and we have a responsibility to do so,” Hall said.

Making sure SNAP benefits and programs are accessible could help

One measure Hall pointed to help bring food insecurity down in the US is focusing on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children or WIC, which is in “danger of not being fully funded for the first time in 25 years.”

Another is making sure people who need SNAP can get assistance, per Hall. That includes loosening the work requirement needed for SNAP benefits.

“There’s some provisions that are being proposed that would make that work requirement even more difficult for people to meet or it would make it so that the work reporting requirement applies to more people and would basically reduce access to the program,” Hall said.

Hall also noted there was a revision a few years ago made to the Thrifty Food Plan, which is “used to determine SNAP benefit amounts” per the USDA website. Hall said without further updates, the benefits wouldn’t “have as much purchasing power for families as they currently do.”

“The experience of the pandemic showed us that when government invests in meaningful support for families, we can make a positive impact on food security, even during challenging economic times,” Vilsack said.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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