Number of the Day Shows Food Shortages Haven’t Gone Away

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Number of the Day

That’s the share of U.S. children who are sometimes or often not getting enough to eat because their families can’t afford food, according to an analysis of October Census data.

The analysis, from Brookings Institution economist Lauren Bauer, shows the percentage of children with “very low food security” has dropped from the peaks reached earlier in the COVID-19 crisis—it climbed as high as 19% in July—but is still significantly higher than it was at any pre-pandemic point since at least 2006. Other measures of hunger, including the share of U.S. households with food insecurity, showed a similar trend.

The improvement stems from declining unemployment rates, some school reopenings (which expand the reach of school meal programs) and the residual benefit of federal fiscal support passed earlier in the year, according to Bauer, who analyzed Household Pulse Survey data from the Census Bureau, among other data.

“Deteriorating economic conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have made it even more difficult for many low-income households, including those with children, to afford groceries,” Bauer wrote in a report this week. “While federal nutrition assistance programs have expanded as families have lost income and through Congressional action, elevated levels of very low food security among children necessitate additional action.”