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. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that up to 132 million more people will struggle to feed themselves and their families in 2020 due to the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic2.
- 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
- Pre-pandemic, more than 35 million Americans struggled with hunger. Due to the pandemic, that number has skyrocketed with more than 50 million Americans, or 1 in 6, projected to face hunger in 20205.
- 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:
- 19% of households headed by Black, non-Hispanic people experience hunger and 15.6% of households headed by Hispanic people experience hunger; compared to just 7.9% of White, non-Hispanic households
- 13.6% of all households with children experience hunger. That jumps to nearly 28.7% of households with children that are headed by a single woman7.
- 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 force to rely on SNAP in April 202011.
- 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 2019, and this year, the Navajo Nation suffered a 3.4% COVID-19 infection rate. That’s twice that of New York City12.
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 population13.
- 2020 federal guidelines set the poverty rate at $26,200 for a family of four14.
- The economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic could push half a billion more people into poverty 15.
- As of 2018, close to 8% of workers around the world lived on less than $1.90/day16.
- 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 threats17.
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
- United Nations Children’s Fund
- Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
- United States Census Bureau
- Economic Policy Institute
- 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 of the United Nations. “Key Messages.” The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020. Accessed October 22, 2020. http://www.fao.org/3/ca9692en/online/ca9692en.html#chapter-Key_message
- 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 ”The Impact of the Coronavirus on Food Insecurity in 2020.” Updated October 2020. https://www.feedingamerica.org/sites/default/files/2020-10/Brief_Local%20Impact_10.2020_0.pdf
- 6 ”The Impact of the Coronavirus on Food Insecurity in 2020.” Updated October 2020. https://www.feedingamerica.org/sites/default/files/2020-10/Brief_Local%20Impact_10.2020_0.pdf
- 7 Benson, Craig. Poverty: 2018 and 2019. American Community Survey Briefs, United States Census Bureau. Issued September, 2020. https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2020/acs/acsbr20-04.pdf
- 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 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/
- 13 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
- 14 US Department of Health and Human Services. “US Federal Poverty Guidelines Used to Determine Financial Eligibility for Certain Federal Programs.” Poverty Guidelines, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. Published January 8, 2020. https://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty-guidelines
- 15 U.S. Global Leadership Coalition. “COVID-19 Brief: Impact on Food Security.” Last updated September 14, 2020. https://www.usglc.org/coronavirus/global-hunger/
- 16 United Nations. “Ending Poverty.” Peace, dignity, equality on a healthy planet. Accessed October 22, 2020. https://www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/poverty/
- 17 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.pdf