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Food Insecurity

Food Bank

Overview

Food insecurity is a measure that indicates that a household has experienced limited access to adequate food due to a lack of money and other resources. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, is the fundamental safety net for American families, which supported 5 million people in 2014 experiencing food insecurity (the most recent data available). As more and more families experience food insecurity during economic downturns, economists have been examining changes in access to food as well as the short- and long-term effects of programs like SNAP.

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Research Roundup

Food Insecurity in the Census Household Pulse Survey Data Tables

June, 2020

In their latest report, IPR director and economist Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach and research analyst Abigail Pitts estimate rates of food insecurity from the Census Household Pulse Survey (CHHPS) that, depending on the approach taken to map food insufficiency onto food insecurity, range in the first week of data collection from 23%–31% for respondents overall and 28%–37% among respondents with children. The estimates of food insecurity from the CHHPS are very similar to those found in the COVID Impact Survey (COVID Impact) and indicate that food insecurity rates have at least doubled from their previous levels. 

Food Insecurity Remains at Persistently High Levels in May

May, 2020

This report from IPR economist Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach and research analyst Abigail Pitts shows that food insecurity remained persistently high in May. Their previous report from earlier in May revealed that food insecurity tripled for families with children during the COVID-19 pandemic. Using data from the COVID Impact Survey, they find that nearly half of those surveyed with children said they were worried about food running out before they had money to buy more. The state of Louisiana had the highest estimated rate of food insecurity, with more than 1 in 3 respondents reporting being food insecure, and it was highest in the Birmingham, Columbus (Ohio), Chicago, and Phoenix metro areas.

Food Insecurity Triples for Families with Children During COVID-19 Pandemic

April, 2020

New evidence is emerging from surveys since the COVID-19 pandemic began that document dramatic increases in food insecurity as well as very low food security—a more severe condition in which there have been substantial disruptions or reductions in food intake—among adults, childrenand other vulnerable populationsIn their first full report and appendix, IPR Director and economist Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach and research analyst Abigail Pitts take several approaches to contextualizing current levels of food insecurity in the United States, using data from the COVID Impact Survey.

The Changing Safety Net for Children

December, 2018

A new rule by the current White House administration has tighten regulations for those who receive food stamps and work, which could cut benefits for tens of thousands of people.  IPR economist Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach finds that 80% of safety net spending has shifted to households with earnings—where people work—than to the poorest households without earnings. She notes that moving to work-contingent assistance is problematic for people in these households who rely on SNAP benefits. 

SNAP’s Short- and Long-Term Benefits

January, 2017

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, is the fundamental safety net for American families, lifting 5 million people out of poverty in 2014 (the most recent data available). With more and more families receiving benefits from programs like SNAP, IPR economist Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach is examining the program’s short- and long-term effects. She finds that SNAP improves birth outcomes and long-term health for recipients, and leads to better economic outcomes for women