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The Effect of COVID-19 on Food Insecurity in the United States

The project: The COVID-19 pandemic and the societal changes it has prompted in the United States are profoundly and quickly changing American life. This research aimed to measure the effect of the COVID-19 outbreak on food insecurity in the United States.

The process: Wave one of a survey of adults with low incomes (which began data collection on March 19, 2020) measured concerns about COVID-19 and how the outbreak is affecting employment and income, child care, and food access. The survey also asked about receipt of government benefits and free and reduced price school meals, and it measured anxiety, depression, stress, and food insecurity.

The second wave of the survey (fielded in June 2020) also measured anxiety, depression, stress, food insecurity, low-income adults’ experience with the COVID-19 pandemic, the associated government measures to contain it, and the government policies to support people/businesses affected by COVID-19.

Results: The researchers documented disparities in food insecurity by race/ethnicity and how the experience of food insecurity is associated with numerous other adverse outcomes including poor mental health and poor diet quality. These results provided timely estimates of food insecurity and its impacts during the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings have been published in peer-reviewed journal articles in Health Equity, American Journal of Public Health, and Nutrients

Julia Wolfson, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Cindy Leung, U-M School of Public Health