8 Facts About Food Insecurity and Child Hunger in America
For millions of children across the United States, access to healthy, consistent meals is becoming more difficult every day. In a matter of months, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the long-time issue of food insecurity in the United States, defined as the inability to reliably access affordable and nutritious food. Now more than ever, more families are struggling to make ends meet. Coupled with rising unemployment rates and changes in access to school-based support systems like free lunches, food insecurity has doubled overall and tripled amongst households with children.
Here are eight facts about food insecurity and child hunger in America and its continued impact.
1. COVID-19 continues to exacerbate food insecurity.
The impact of COVID-19 has been felt in every community throughout the United States. As unemployment rates continue to rise, previous improvements in the rate of food insecurity are slowly being erased. The greatest impact will be felt by those who were already food insecure, where critical support systems such as soup kitchens or food pantries are struggling to meet the increase in demand. When it comes to school-provided lunches, COVID has put further strain on an already stressed system: 30 million children rely on school-provided meals for one or more of their meals. With many schools still relying on remote learning, limiting access to school lunches, more and more children are going hungry.
2. Food insecurity indicates resource insecurity.
Food insecure families may be forced to make impossible choices, like deciding between a meal on the table, taking their child to the doctor, or keeping the lights on. Food insecurity is intimately tied to a lack of resources and stability: families facing food insecurity may also be experiencing unstable housing, unreliable transportation, and a high rate of unemployment. Food is often the sacrifice many families are forced to make.
3. Food insecurity can lead to educational gaps and health issues.
There are proven links between food insecurity and poor health and behavioral issues in children, but it doesn’t stop there. Even before a child is born, food-insecure moms-to-be are more likely to experience birth complications and low iron, in addition to having low birth weights for their newborns. As these children grow up, they’re more likely to experience gaps in their education, develop learning disabilities, and undernourished children face more challenges focusing in the classroom.
4. Food deserts play a big role in food insecurity.
Food deserts are areas in the United States where supermarkets, local shops, and other food stores with affordable healthy foods are outside of an accessible radius. This in turn creates food swamps, where these areas are flooded with “fringe foods” — unhealthy processed and fast foods that are easy to access resulting in obesity and other health issues, particularly in Black and brown communities. Kids in these areas are not getting the vital nutrition they need in order to thrive, perpetuating the cycle of food insecurity for children growing up in these areas and child hunger in America.
5. It disproportionality affects people and families of color.
Due to poverty disproportionately impacting people of color, the same is true with food insecurity. Because of major structural and systemic inequities in healthcare, education, and housing, households of color are experiencing food insecurity at extremely high rates. The data shows that Black and Hispanic Americans are among the most food insecure populations, where about 3 in 10 Black households with children and 1 in 4 Hispanic households with children did not have sufficient food as of June 2020. In white households, the rate of child food insecurity is at an estimated 1 in 10 households.
6. Regionally, the South and parts of the west are impacted the most.
According to a study by Feeding America, 80% of the counties with the highest rates of food insecurity are in the South, and 55% of Southern counties have child food insecurity rates greater than 21%. In East Carroll Parish, Louisiana, the child food insecurity rate tops 44%. This is in part because states in the South and West tend to have higher rates of children living in concentrated poverty.
7. Food Insecurity is everywhere — even in your community.
A common misconception is that food insecurity only affects those living below the poverty line (a family of four living on $25,100 a year). Of those reporting food insecurity, a staggering 59% live above the poverty line. Working families including those with full-time or multiple jobs can still suffer from food insecurity. Your next-door neighbor who is a new parent, a friend, or coworker could well be facing this issue.
This holiday season, The Full Plate Project by Red Nose Day is addressing the immediate needs of children and families facing hunger and food insecurity.
Red Nose Day’s Full Plate Project is a holiday giving campaign that provides meals and urgent relief for children facing hunger, and supports long-term solutions to help combat food insecurity. For millions, this time of year will be especially difficult, but by coming together for The Full Plate Project by Red Nose Day, each of us can do our part to make a meaningful difference in the lives of children and families who are struggling this holiday season.
The need has never been greater for children facing hunger here in the US and around the world. Support the Full Plate Project to ensure Red Nose Day and partners can continue working on the frontlines to end child hunger. Make a gift today.
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