Just the facts
Hunger, Poverty and COVID-19 in the U.S. and Globally
- Pre-pandemic, an estimated 2 billion people around the world were struggling to put food on their tables. After a peak of 760 million additional people in 2020, projections for 2030 see a decrease in global hunger rates. However, approximately 30 million more than what was originally expected still remain in hunger due to the effects of the pandemic. Overall, the world is not on track for meeting any of the nutrition indicators for the 2030 SDGs.2
- COVID-19 has pushed 1 billion children around the world out of school, depriving them of access to nutritious food3.
- 135 million people in 55 countries with pre-existing food insecurity issues are left even more vulnerable to the consequences of COVID-19. This means that they are battling the threats of both hunger and the virus simultaneously4.
HUNGER IN AMERICA
- In 2020, more than 38 million Americans, including 11.7 million children, struggled with food insecurity.5
- This data, released by the USDA in Sept 2021 represents just a modest increase from pre-pandemic numbers (35 million Americans, 10.7 million children in 2019). WhyHunger and other anti-hunger institutions point to the efforts of community-based organizations, mutual aid and private charities, combined with the massive economic aid packages provided by the government as key to our ability to keep skyrocketing hunger at bay, providing a real-world example of how deeply economic justice and hunger are linked, and strengthening WhyHunger’s call for long-term solutions that address the root causes of hunger.
- Pre-pandemic, more than 10 million American children struggled with hunger. Due to the pandemic, more than 17 million children, or nearly 1 in 4, were projected to face hunger in 20206.
- Hunger doesn’t affect everyone equally; the food insecurity rates are higher than the national average (about 10.5%) for some groups - which is why we need to look at the root causes of hunger when working on solutions:
- Black (21.7 percent) and Latinx (17.2 percent) households are disproportionately impacted by food insecurity, with food insecurity rates in 2020 triple and double the rate of White households (7.1 percent), respectively.6
- 14.4% of all households with children experience hunger. That jumps to 40% of single-parent households with children headed by women that did not know where their next meal was coming from.7
- 1 in 3 people who are food insecure are unlikely to qualify for most federal nutrition programs8.
- 40% of those visiting emergency food suppliers during COVID-19 had never sought food assistance before9.
- The vast majority of people who grow, pick and process our food live in poverty and cannot afford to buy adequate healthy food. 86% of jobs in the food system offer very low wages at the poverty level and below the poverty level10.
- From March 2020 to April 2020 alone, the amount of people using SNAP benefits grew by 15.8%. Nearly 43 million people were forced to rely on SNAP in April 202011. This number has not changed as of May 2021; additionally, food prices rose about 3.4% in July 2021 compared to the previous year.12
- Indigenous communities continue experiencing food insecurity and other issues at heightened levels due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 60% of counties with majority Native populations were very food insecure in 2020, and this year, the Navajo Nation suffered a 3.4% COVID-19 infection rate. That’s twice that of New York City13.
Poverty, a root cause of hunger, is also often indicated by marginal income and limited access to healthcare, education, clothing and shelter.
In the U.S.:
- Before the pandemic, 39.4 million people were living in poverty in the U.S. More than 12% of the population14.
- 2021 federal guidelines set the poverty rate at $26,500 for a family of four15
- 40% of Americans are living just one paycheck away from poverty, making impossible decisions between paying their bills, feeding their families or filling their prescriptions.16
- The economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic could push half a billion more people into poverty 17.
- Currently, approximately 10% of workers around the world live on less than $1.90/day.18
- Over the last 10 years, before the global health crisis was in the picture, the relatively consistent poverty reduction we’ve seen every year since the 1990’s began to slow. COVID-19 is not the only factor sending more and more people below the poverty line – armed conflict and climate change are also major threats19.
- In 2018, the World Bank introduced additional poverty metrics intended to be more reflective of global poverty. But ongoing conflicts and political instability hinder data collection in the world’s poorest nations, and poverty rates are almost nonexistent for many countries past 2014; namely, Sub-Saharan Africa and India.19
For more information on WhyHunger's vision for a world free from hunger, visit Our Work.
- Food and Agriculture Organization
- United States Department of Agriculture
- Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
- United States Census Bureau
- Gates Notes: The Personal Blog of Bill Gates
- Food Chain Workers Alliance
- World Bank Group
- Feeding America
- 1 World Hunger Education Service. “2018 World Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics.” Revised May 25, 2018. https://www.worldhunger.org/world-hunger-and-poverty-facts-and-statistics/#produce1
- 2 Food and Agriculture Organization. “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021.” https://www.fao.org/3/cb4474en/online/cb4474en.html#chapter-2_3
- 3 U.S. Global Leadership Coalition. “COVID-19 Brief: Impact on Food Security.” Last updated September 14, 2020. https://www.usglc.org/coronavirus/global-hunger/
- 4 Global Network Against Food Crises, Food Security Information Network. 2020 Global Report on Food Crises: Joint Analysis for Better Decisions. 2020. Accessed October 22, 2020. https://docs.wfp.org/api/documents/WFP-0000114546/download/?_ga=2.90253727.46253289.1603293682-336947070.1603293682
- 5 USDA Economic Research Service. “Food Security Status of U.S. Households in 2020.” Accessed January 10, 2022. https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-us/key-statistics-graphics.aspx/
- 6 USDA Economic Research Service. “Food Insecurity by Household Characteristics.” Accessed January 10, 2022. https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-us/key-statistics-graphics.aspx/
- 7 USA Facts. “Percent of children in poverty.” https://usafacts.org/data/topics/security-safety/child-care-and-safety/child-welfare/children-in-poverty/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=ND-Education-Childcare&msclkid=d45cbefe8abc1081767fdf51108e6154
- 8 2020. Mapping the Meal Gap 2020: A Report on County and Congressional District Food Insecurity and County Food Cost in the United States in 2018. Feeding America. https://www.feedingamerica.org/sites/default/files/2020-06/Map%20the%20Meal%20Gap%202020%20Combined%20Modules.pdf
- 9 Feeding America. Your Investments in Action: Fall 2020 Impact Report. 2020. https://www.feedingamerica.org/sites/default/files/2020-10/2020%20Fall%20Impact%20Report_v7_Single%20Pages%281%29.pdf
- 10 Food Chain Workers Alliance and Solidarity Research Cooperative. No Piece of the Pie: U.S. Food Workers In 2016, 2016. Accessed 10/16/2018. http://foodchainworkers.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/FCWA_NoPieceOfThePie_P.pdf
- 11 Food and Nutrition Service, US Department of Agriculture. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: Number of Persons Participating. Data as of July 10, 2020. https://fns-prod.azureedge.net/sites/default/files/resource-files/29SNAPcurrPP-7a.pdf
- 12 MSN Health. “SNAP benefits will increase to an all-time high — here’s how much more the average family will receive each month.” Microsoft News Market Watch. August 21, 2021. https://www.msn.com/en-us/health/nutrition/snap-benefits-will-increase-to-an-all-time-high-here-s-how-much-more-the-average-family-will-receive-each-month/ar-AANnUBG#:~:text=In%20February%202020%2C%20prior%20to%20the%20widespread%20onset,to%20the%20latest%20figure%20s%20from%20the%20USDA.
- 13 Ane, Katell. “Native-Led Nonprofit Tackles Food Insecurity on Reservations.” Food Tank. Published September, 2020. https://foodtank.com/news/2020/09/native-led-nonprofit-tackles-food-insecurity-on-reservations/
- 14 Coleman-Jensen, Alisha, Matthew P. Rabbitt, Christian A. Gregory, and Anita Singh. 2020. Household Food Security in the United States in 2019, ERR-275, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/publications/99282/err-275.pdf?v=181
- 15 US Department of Health and Human Services. “Annual Update of the HHS Poverty Guidelines.” Federal Register, The Daily Journal of the United States Government. Published January 13, 2021. https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/02/01/2021-01969/annual-update-of-the-hhs-poverty-guidelines
- 16 Prosperity Now. “Vulnerability in the Face of Economic Uncertainty.” January 2019. https://prosperitynow.org/sites/default/files/resources/2019_Scorecard_Key_Findings.pdf.
- 17 U.S. Global Leadership Coalition. “COVID-19 Brief: Impact on Food Security.” Last updated September 14, 2020. https://www.usglc.org/coronavirus/global-hunger/
- 18 Gates Notes. “What’s it like to live on less than $2 a day?” September 2019. https://www.gatesnotes.com/Development/Life-on-less-than-2-dollars-a-day#:~:text=More%20than%20one%20billion%20people%20have%20lifted%20themselves,Bank%E2%80%99s%20international%20poverty%20line%20%E2%80%94is%20over%20700%20million.
- 19 World Bank. 2020. “Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2020: Reversals of Fortune.” Overview booklet. Washington, DC: World Bank. License: Creative Commons Attribution CC BY 3.0 IGO. https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/34496/211602ov.pd