USDA’s Household Food Security Report for 2021 Shows Overall Food Insecurity Declined in 2021, With Government Assistance Playing a Critical Role
Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the Household Food Security in the United States in 2021 report, which shows that food insecurity rates declined in 2021 from the previous year, resulting in the lowest rate for both individuals and children since records began. In 2021, nearly 34 million people were living in food-insecure households compared to more than 38 million in 2020. Importantly, food insecurity declined for children, from nearly 12 million in 2020 to 9 million in 2021, thanks to the charitable food response and government support including the Child Tax Credit and expanded SNAP eligibility and benefits.
“According to USDA's food security report released yesterday, 2021 saw the lowest rate of food insecurity among all individuals and children on record. Still, nearly 34 million people facing hunger in this country are too many, and we know this number would have been much higher were it not for the continued unprecedented response from the charitable food sector and government nutrition programs” said Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America. “The public/private response to the hunger crisis brought on by the pandemic has been successful in mitigating food insecurity rates, particularly among households with children, and we need to continue and expand those efforts to ensure everyone has access to the food and resources they need to thrive.”
Although there were fewer people living in food-insecure households in 2021 compared to 2020, food insecurity levels worsened for some sub-populations while improving for others. In particular, the report reveals a need for greater support amongst people 65 years and older and individuals living alone. Food insecurity decreased for Black households, all low-income households and households in the South. On the other hand, food insecurity increased among households with no children, especially for women and elderly people living alone.
Even with decreases in food insecurity in 2021, there remains a wide racial disparity in its impact:
- Black individuals were nearly 3 times more likely to face hunger than white individuals.
- Latino individuals were 2.5 times more likely to face hunger than white individuals.
In 2021, 53 million people turned to the charitable food sector for help, with the Feeding America network of food banks distributing more than 5.5 billion meals to those in need. The broader federal resources provided in 2021 through SNAP emergency allotments, program waivers and expanded eligibility, the Child Tax Credit, Pandemic EBT, the update to the Thrifty Food Plan and other assistance to households helped greatly alleviate food insecurity levels. These programs were critical in supporting our neighbors in need, but the Child Tax Credit refundability ended in 2021 and other temporary assistance will end as soon as the emergency declaration ends. Since these measures were provisional, long-term expansions to these federal assistance programs will require additional action by Congress.
This year has given rise to some deeply concerning circumstances that can impact food insecurity, including the end of temporary government assistance, supply chain issues and rising food prices. It is timely that the White House will hold a conference on hunger later in September with a goal to end hunger by 2030. Feeding America’s Elevating Voices to End Hunger Together initiative aims to help inform solutions to end hunger by sharing insights from people who have experienced food insecurity. Through collaborative solutions, policymakers, the business community, foundations, nonprofits, community leaders and individuals with lived experience together can increase nutritious food access for all and achieve our vision of an America where no one is hungry.
To learn more about Feeding America’s hunger-relief efforts, visit feedingamerica.org.
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About Feeding America
Feeding America® is the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States. Through a network of more than 200 food banks, 21 statewide food bank associations, and over 60,000 partner agencies, food pantries and meal programs, we helped provide 5.2 billion meals to tens of millions of people in need last year. Feeding America also supports programs that prevent food waste and improve food security among the people we serve; brings attention to the social and systemic barriers that contribute to food insecurity in our nation; and advocates for legislation that protects people from going hungry. Visit www.feedingamerica.org, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.