Survey: 61% of Americans Have Faced Food Insecurity

Of the 61% of U.S. survey respondent who have faced food insecurity at some point in their lives, 73% experienced it for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

Food insecurity—defined by the USDA as a “lack of available financial resources for food for all members of the home”—is on the rise. Six in 10 Americans have experienced food insecurity at some point in their lives, according to research conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Herbalife Nutrition and Feed the Children. Of those impacted, 73% experienced food insecurity for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the findings from the survey, which included 2,000 Americans with an annual household income under $100K:

  • 35% of those who have faced food insecurity said they have personally skipped meals, and 32% said their family skipped meals.
  • 31% said they didn’t know where their next meal would come from.
  • 32% of those who experienced food insecurity said they didn’t have enough money to buy food.

The survey also looked at the global impact of food insecurity. It included over 9,000 respondents from 21 countries. Globally, the effect of the pandemic on food insecurity was less severe than in the U.S., with 49% of respondents have experienced food insecurity during their lives; of those, 61% experienced it for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

“Access to affordable healthy food should be the norm for every person but, tragically, we find ourselves in a global crisis that needs our attention with more than 820 million people around the world living in hunger, a crisis that has been compounded by the pandemic,” said Dr. Kent Bradley, Chief Health and Nutrition Officer at Herbalife Nutrition, in a press release.

Additional global findings:

  • 58% of respondents globally are parents; for those who have experienced food insecurity, 88% are worried their child will have lasting health effects as a result of food insecurity during the pandemic.
  • 70% of parents globally said their child was currently distance learning; of those, approximately 60% said they typically rely on school meals to ensure their child is eating healthy meals.

“In the U.S. one in four children are living in a food insecure household,” said Travis Arnold, President and CEO of Feed the Children, a nonprofit organization focused on alleviating childhood hunger. “Many children who are no longer attending childcare centers or in-person school have limited access to school meals—a source of nutritious meals for millions of students across the country. Since food insecurity and poor nutrition are associated with several chronic illnesses, the food access crisis threatens to intensify the disparities in health for at-risk children and families.”

The release also outlined the ways in which American respondents face food insecurity. Of the 61% of U.S. respondents who have faced food insecurity:

  • 41% started shopping at different, less expensive stores
  • 40% began purchasing less expensive foods
  • 40% received food assistance from a food bank or a local community center
  • 39% cut back on the amount of food purchased at once
  • 34% held onto food to have at a later time

Find more details from the survey here.

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