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Breastfeeding in WIC program increased following infant formula market disruptions in 2022

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

The number of breastfed infants in USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) began to increase around the start of infant formula supply chain disruptions in 2022. In February 2022, a voluntary recall of some powder infant formulas and a temporary closure of a formula manufacturing facility compounded Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic-related supply chain issues that limited the supply of infant formula. National monthly WIC participation data provide insights into how caregivers of WIC-participating infants responded to these challenges. In March 2022, the number of fully formula feeding infants decreased 5 percent, while the number of partially breastfed infants increased 4 percent and the number of fully breastfed infants increased 5 percent compared with the same month in the previous year. By October 2022, the number of fully formula feeding infants had decreased 8 percent, while the number of partially breastfed infants increased 15 percent and the number of fully breastfed infants increased 29 percent from one year before. The increases in the numbers of breastfed infants continued in fiscal year 2023, remaining above previous year numbers through September. This chart is drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service report The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children: Background, Trends, and Economic Issues, 2024 Edition, published in February 2024.

Breastfeeding initiation increased among WIC participants and WIC-eligible nonparticipants across racial and ethnic groups from 2009–17

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Breastfeeding is considered the best source of nutrition for infants and is therefore promoted by USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Initiation, one breastfeeding metric, refers to breastfeeding an infant shortly after birth, including at or before discharge from the hospital. From 2009 to 2017, rates of breastfeeding initiation increased among low-income women regardless of WIC participation status or race/ethnicity. Hispanic women had the highest rates of breastfeeding initiation throughout the study period. Non-Hispanic Black women had the lowest rates of breastfeeding initiation, but they experienced the largest gains (22.3 percent among WIC participants and 24.1 percent among WIC-eligible nonparticipants). Compared with WIC-eligible nonparticipants (80.1 percent), WIC participants (78.5 percent) continued to have lower rates of breastfeeding initiation overall, although the gap in initiation between WIC-eligible nonparticipants and WIC participants closed for some racial/ethnic groups. In 2009, Asian/Pacific Islander women had the largest gap in breastfeeding initiation by WIC status. By 2017, this gap had narrowed and reversed direction because of a greater increase in breastfeeding initiation among WIC participants (21.4 percent) compared with WIC-eligible nonparticipants (8.6 percent). This pattern also was observed for American Indian/Alaska Native women and for non-Hispanic White women. This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Amber Waves article Rates of Breastfeeding Initiation Increased Among Low-Income Women, 2009–17; Racial and Ethnic Disparities Persist, released October 2023.

Predicted prevalence of five chronic diseases increased as household food security worsened

Monday, January 8, 2024

Adults in U.S. households that are less food secure are significantly more likely to have one or more chronic diseases, and the likelihood increases as food insecurity worsens. Researchers at USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) recently updated estimates of the fraction of working-age adults with chronic disease in households with incomes at or below 200 percent of the Federal poverty level based on food security status using data from 2019–22. They looked at the rate of five chronic diseases across four levels of household food security, ranging from high food security (households with no problems or anxiety about consistently obtaining adequate food) to very low food security (eating patterns of one or more household members were disrupted and food intake reduced). From 2019–22, predicted illness prevalences among the five chronic diseases examined were 3.6 to 9.5 percentage points higher for adults in very low food-secure households compared with those in high food-secure households. This shows that food security status and health are closely linked. This chart updates information in the Amber Waves article, Adults in Households With More Severe Food Insecurity Are More Likely To Have a Chronic Disease, published in October 2017, and in the ERS report Food Insecurity, Chronic Disease, and Health Among Working-Age Adults, published in July 2017.

SNAP participation varied across States in fiscal year 2022

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

In fiscal year (FY) 2022, USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) served an average of 41.1 million people per month in the 50 States and Washington, DC. SNAP is the largest domestic nutrition assistance program, accounting for about two-thirds of USDA spending on food and nutrition assistance in recent years. The SNAP participation rate increased nationwide during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, to a high of 12.5 percent of the resident population of the 50 States and DC in FY 2021. The FY 2022 rate fell slightly to 12.3 percent. SNAP participation varies across States because of differences in program administration and economic conditions. In FY 2022, the share of residents receiving SNAP benefits in each State ranged from as high as 24.5 percent in New Mexico to as low as 4.6 percent in Utah. In 35 States, the share was somewhere between 8 and 16 percent. This map appears in USDA, Economic Research Service’s Charting the Essentials, last updated November 2023.

Food insecurity in U.S. households with older adults increased in 2022

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

In 2022, 9.1 percent of U.S. households with adults aged 65 and older were food insecure at some time during the year, meaning they had difficulty providing enough food for all their members because of a lack of resources. The prevalence of food insecurity in households with adults aged 65 and older in 2022 was statistically significantly higher than the 7.1 percent in 2021 and the 6.9 percent in 2020. USDA, Economic Research Service monitors the food security status of households in the United States through an annual nationwide survey. The survey does not include older adults residing in assisted living facilities. In 2022, 11.4 percent of households with an adult aged 65 and older living alone were food insecure, which is statistically significantly higher than the prevalence in 2021 of 9.5 percent and in 2020 of 8.3 percent. Very low food security is a more severe form of food insecurity in which the food intake of some household members was reduced and normal eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year. The 2022 prevalence of very low food security in households with adults aged 65 and older was 3.4 percent, statistically significantly higher than the 2.8 percent in 2021 and the 2.5 percent in 2020. Household food security data by various demographic categories, such as older adults, are available in the report Household Food Security in the United States in 2022, published in October 2023.

More than half of all food-insecure households work full time

Thursday, December 7, 2023

In 2022, over half of all food-insecure households in the United States had one or more adult members employed full time. USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) monitors the prevalence of U.S. household food insecurity through an annual survey and provides information about the characteristics of food-insecure households, including their employment status. The employment status for each household is measured using the combined employment status of all adult household members. In 2022, households with adults employed full-time made up the largest share of food-insecure households at 55 percent, a share that has remained stable since 2017. Households with one or more adults employed part time because it was the only job available (called part time for economic reasons) comprised the smallest share of food-insecure households at 2 percent. The remaining food-insecure households had one or more adults who were retired, employed part time for non-economic reasons, unemployed, disabled, or not in the labor force. An interactive visualization and the underlying downloadable data for prevalence, severity (low and very low food security), and distribution of food insecurity by household employment status can be found on the ERS Interactive Charts and Highlights page.

Food insecurity ranged from 6.2 percent in New Hampshire to 16.6 percent in Arkansas in 2020–22

Monday, October 30, 2023

Food-insecure households sometimes have difficulty providing enough food for all their members because they lack resources. USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) monitors the extent of food insecurity in U.S. households at the national and State levels through an annual U.S. Census Bureau survey. State-level estimates are obtained by averaging 3 years of data to generate a larger sample size in each State. This provides more precise estimates and more power to detect differences across States. The estimated prevalence rates of food insecurity during 2020–22 ranged from 6.2 percent in New Hampshire to 16.6 percent in Arkansas. The estimated national 3-year average for all States was 11.2 percent. The prevalence of food insecurity was statistically significantly higher than the national average in 6 States (AR, LA, MS, OK, SC, and TX) and statistically significantly lower than the national average in 17 States (CA, CO, HI, IA, MA, MD, MN, ND, NH, NJ, PA, RI, SD, VA, VT, WA, and WI). In the remaining 27 States and the District of Columbia, differences from the national average were not statistically significant. An interactive food insecurity map can be found on ERS’s Interactive Charts and Highlights page that allows users to view two measures of food insecurity over multiple years for each State. Users can see State trends in food insecurity, how States compare with national food insecurity prevalence rates, and how States compare with one another. This map appears on ERS’s Key Statistics & Graphics page.

Prevalence of U.S. household food insecurity increased in 2022

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

In 2022, 12.8 percent of U.S. households (17 million) were food insecure at some time during the year, meaning they had difficulty providing enough food for all their members because of a lack of resources. The prevalence of food insecurity in 2022 was statistically significantly higher than the 10.2 percent recorded in 2021 and the 10.5 percent in 2020. USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) monitors the food security status of households in the United States through an annual nationwide survey. Very low food security is a more severe form of food insecurity in which the food intake of some household members was reduced and normal eating patterns were disrupted. The 2022 prevalence of very low food security was 5.1 percent, statistically significantly higher than the 3.8 percent in 2021 and the 3.9 percent in 2020. This chart appears on ERS’s Key Statistics & Graphics page and in the ERS report Household Food Security in the United States in 2022, published October 25, 2023.

USDA’s National School Lunch Program has served about 229 billion meals since 1971

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

The USDA’s National School Lunch Program (NSLP) served 4.9 billion lunches in fiscal year 2022, and about 228.9 billion lunches since 1971. Any student in a participating school can get an NSLP lunch. Typically, students may be eligible for either a free, reduced-price, or full-price lunch depending on their household’s income. Compared with previous years, a higher share of the lunches were served for free or at a reduced price in fiscal years 2020 through 2022. This was in large part because of USDA waivers during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic allowing for meals to be provided free of charge to all students. These waivers expired in June 2022. The onset of the pandemic in March 2020 interrupted the operations of many schools, disrupting the provision of lunches through the NSLP. In response, USDA allowed schools to serve free meals through the Summer Food Service Program or the NSLP’s Seamless Summer Option, while the temporary Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program reimbursed eligible families for the value of school meals missed because of these disruptions. This chart appears on the USDA, Economic Research Service’s National School Lunch Program page within the Child Nutrition Programs topic page.

Emergency allotments central to SNAP spending growth during pandemic

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is designed to expand during economic downturns. SNAP participation and inflation-adjusted spending grew each year from fiscal year (FY) 2007–13 following the Great Recession and from FY 2019–21 following the recession caused by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. However, aspects of program growth differed between these periods. Average monthly participation increased faster, for longer, and by a greater amount following the Great Recession than it did after the COVID-19 recession, peaking at 47.6 million participants in FY 2013. Although participation grew less from FY 2019–21, inflation-adjusted spending rose more quickly given the shorter time span, from $67.5 billion in FY 2019 to $120.8 billion in FY 2021 (an average 39.5-percent increase per year). Emergency allotments were central to SNAP spending growth during the pandemic. Emergency allotments were issued as monthly supplements in response to the pandemic, bringing all recipients’ benefits to the maximum allowed each month beginning in 2020 (and later providing a minimum of $95 per month for all recipients). In FY 2021, emergency allotments and other disaster supplements accounted for $39.2 billion, almost a third of total spending. Excluding spending on emergency allotments and other disaster supplements, total spending was only $81.6 billion in FY 2021, about $15 billion less than FY 2013 spending, adjusting for inflation. Emergency allotments ended in 17 States over FY 2021–22 and in the remainder of States in early 2023. This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Amber Waves article, U.S. Food and Nutrition Assistance Programs Continued To Respond to Economic and Public Health Conditions in Fiscal Year 2022, released August 2023.

Total participation in WIC increased in fiscal year 2022, first rise in more than a decade

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides supplemental food packages, nutrition education, breastfeeding support, and health care referrals at no cost to low-income pregnant and postpartum women, infants younger than 1 year old, and children 1 to 5 years old who are at nutritional risk. More than half of WIC participants are children (54.8 percent), followed by infants (22.8 percent) and women (22.4 percent). Total participation in WIC increased for the first time in more than a decade in fiscal year (FY) 2022. Participation averaged 6.26 million people a month, up from 6.24 million a month in FY 2021. This was the first increase in overall participation since the record high 9.18 million in FY 2010 and resulted from increased numbers of women and children participants. Women participants increased by 1.5 percent in FY 2022 after declining for the previous 12 fiscal years, whereas infant participants continued to decline. Declines in the number of births in the United States, beginning in 2008, may be a factor in drops in infant participation. Child participation increased in FY 2022 for the second consecutive fiscal year. Administrative flexibilities put in place in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic may have helped support participation, especially among children. Starting in FY 2020 and continuing through FY 2022, USDA waivers temporarily allowed State agencies to conduct remote certifications for applicants and recertifications for WIC participants and to extend certification periods for certain WIC participants by up to 3 months. This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2022 Annual Report, released June 21, 2023.

U.S. households with children headed by single females used food pantries more than others over last two decades

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

During the past 20 years, households with children headed by a single female consistently showed higher average rates of food pantry use than other household types, including male-headed households with children and married couple households with children. The cost of childcare, education, healthcare, housing, and other expenses can strain a family’s budget, leaving less income available for food purchases. This financial strain may lead parents to seek assistance from food pantries to meet their families’ food needs. Food pantries, often affiliated with faith-based organizations, typically provide free food for people to take home and prepare. The use of food pantries increased in 2009 during the end of the Great Recession and increased in 2020 during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, with average rates increasing more than any previous year. In 2021, 7 percent of households with children used food pantries at some point during the year, compared with 5.6 percent of all households. Among households with children, 4.4 percent of married-couple households used food pantries, while 13.8 percent of single female-headed households and 8 percent of single male-headed households used them. Food pantry use among households with children headed by females fluctuated from 9.4 percent in 2001 to 18.3 percent in 2020. The data for this chart come from the USDA, Economic Research Service’s 2001-2021 annual reports on Household Food Security in the United States. The release of the 2022 Household Food Security in the United States report and corresponding statistical supplement is scheduled for October 25, 2023, because of updates to the survey instrument implemented in 2022.

Total spending on USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs fell in FY 2022, but still higher than before pandemic

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) released “The Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2022 Annual Report” on Wednesday, June 21, 2023. The report examines program trends and policy changes in USDA’s largest domestic food and nutrition assistance programs through fiscal year 2022. An overview of the annual ERS report will be provided in a webinar at 1 p.m. EDT, Wednesday, June 21. To join or register, click here.

Federal spending on USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs totaled $183.0 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2022, down 6 percent from the record-high spending of $194.7 billion in FY 2021, adjusted for inflation to 2022 dollars. Before adjusting for inflation, total FY 2021 spending was $183.3 billion. In FY 2022, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) maximum allotment permanently increased after the Thrifty Food Plan was re-evaluated, and several States also ended SNAP emergency allotments, which temporarily raised all recipients’ benefits to at least the maximum for their household size. SNAP spending totaled $119.5 billion in FY 2022, 1 percent less than the inflation-adjusted record-high spending in FY 2021. Spending on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) totaled $5.7 billion—an increase of 7 percent from inflation-adjusted spending in FY 2021—reflecting an increase in program food costs per participant. Combined spending on child nutrition programs totaled $35.1 billion in FY 2022, increasing 19 percent from the inflation-adjusted total in the previous year. This increase was driven by a greater number of meals served through these programs in FY 2022 compared with FY 2021, as well as higher reimbursement rates for meals served. Combined spending on other programs fell in FY 2022 primarily because of lower spending on Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) and the expiration of the Farmers to Families Food Box Program midway through FY 2021. This chart is based on data available as of January 2023 and appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2022 Annual Report, released June 2023.

Child food insufficiency continues to vary widely across racial and ethnic groups

Thursday, April 6, 2023

In March 2023, 22.8 percent of Black non-Hispanic households reported that their children sometimes or often did not have enough to eat during the past week. Additionally, 19.5 percent of Hispanic households, 13.1 percent of Other non-Hispanic, 10.1 percent of Asian non-Hispanic, and 8.1 percent of White non-Hispanic households reported child food insufficiency. The Household Pulse Survey, which provides these food insufficiency estimates, was developed through a partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau to produce timely information on the economic and social effects of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on U.S. households. Households were classified as having child food insufficiency if the adult survey respondent said children in the household were not eating enough “sometimes” or “often” in the last 7 days because the household could not afford enough food. The prevalence of child food insufficiency for Hispanic households with children peaked in April 2022 at 29.7 percent, while Black non-Hispanic households with children experienced similarly high rates in May (29.2 percent), June (28.7 percent), and July (30.0 percent) of 2022. In contrast, White non-Hispanic households with children experienced a high of just more than 10 percent in August 2022, and Asian households with children reached a high of 13.7 percent in June 2022. The prevalence of child food insufficiency for Other non-Hispanic households with children has fluctuated between these two groups during the same time period. While the prevalence of child food insufficiency for some groups declined from peak levels by March 2023, it continues to affect certain groups more than others. For more information on the USDA, Economic Research Service’s food security research and comparisons of food insecurity and food insufficiency measurements, see the Food Security in the U.S. topic page on the website. This chart appears on the Food Sufficiency During the Pandemic trending topics page.

Disability status can affect food security among U.S. households

Monday, November 14, 2022

In 2021, households that included an adult with disabilities reported higher food insecurity rates than households with no adults with disabilities. Food-insecure households are those that had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all their members because of a lack of resources. In 2021, for U.S. households that included an adult out of the labor force because of a disability, 28 percent were food insecure (low and very low food security). Among U.S. households with an adult age 18-64 who reported a disability but was not out of the labor force because of it, 24 percent were food insecure. In contrast, 7 percent of households with adults without disabilities were food insecure in 2021. Households that include at least one adult 65 and over who reported a disability had food insecurity prevalence rates similar to households with adults without disabilities (9 percent). Very low food security, the more severe form of food insecurity in which normal eating patterns were disrupted and the food intake of some household members was reduced, was also higher for households that included adults with disabilities. In 2021, the prevalence rate of very low food security for households that included adults not in the labor force because of a disability was more than five times that of households that included adults without disabilities (13 percent compared with 2 percent of households). Households that include adults ages 18–64 with a disability, but not out of the labor force because of the disability, also experienced higher prevalence rates of very low food insecurity at 10 percent. This chart appears in USDA, Economic Research Service’s Interactive Charts and Highlights page.

SNAP participation varied across States from 2019 to 2021

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

In fiscal year (FY) 2021, USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) served an average of 41.5 million people monthly, an increase of about 5.8 million per month compared with FY 2019. SNAP participation increased nationwide during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to around 12.5 percent of the total U.S. population in FY 2021 from about 10.9 percent in FY 2019. In addition, SNAP participation data in February 2019 were artificially low because of the Federal Government shutdown (Dec. 22, 2018–Jan. 25, 2019), impacting the average participation rate. SNAP participation also varied across States because of differences in program administration and economic conditions. Over this 2-year period, 41 States saw an increase in SNAP participation, which ranged from a 0.1-percent increase in Mississippi to a 6.6-percent increase in the District of Columbia (D.C.). In D.C., the percentage of participants increased to 20.9 percent in FY 2021 from 14.3 percent in FY 2019. SNAP participation fell across 10 States in FY 2021: Arkansas, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Montana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, and Vermont. The drops in State participation ranged from 0.1 percent in Utah to 0.8 percent in Delaware. The FY 2019 map is updated from the August 2020 Amber Waves article Taking a Closer Look at Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Participation and Expenditures and the FY 2021 map appears in Charting the Essentials, updated October 2022.

Schools obtained more fruits and vegetables through USDA Foods after school meal nutrition standards were updated in 2012

Monday, October 24, 2022

About 100,000 U.S. public and private nonprofit schools participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), which served about 4.9 billion lunches in fiscal year 2019. The majority of foods served through the NSLP are bought through typical market channels, such as foodservice distributors, with USDA cash reimbursements to schools supporting their purchase. However, schools also make use of the USDA Foods in Schools Program (USDA Foods). Schools have two options for acquiring fruits and vegetables through USDA Foods: USDA Foods purchased by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which supplies mainly canned and frozen fruits and vegetables, and fresh fruits and vegetables distributed through the USDA Department of Defense Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (DoD Fresh). After school meal nutrition standards were updated in 2012, schools were required to serve more fruits and a wider mix of vegetables, including dark green and red/orange vegetables. Following the change in standards, schools obtained more fruits and vegetables through USDA Foods and especially through DoD Fresh. While there was no clear change in the types of foods chosen from 2006 to 2012, the percent of USDA Foods entitlement funds used for purchasing fruits and vegetables from DoD Fresh rose sharply from 6.7 percent of total USDA Foods in 2012 to 15 percent in 2017. Fruit obtained through AMS—mainly canned and frozen—rose from 9.4 percent of total USDA Foods spending in 2012 to 15.4 percent in 2017. Vegetables obtained from USDA’s AMS slightly rose from 2012 to 2017. As the percentage of spending on fruits and vegetables increased, the percentage spent on meat, poultry, and cheese dropped from nearly 74 percent in 2012 to 61 percent in 2017. This chart appears in the ERS report, Trends in USDA Foods Ordered for Child Nutrition Programs Before and After Updated Nutrition Standards, released September 1, 2022.

Online SNAP and P-EBT redemptions totaled $9.7 billion in first two years of pandemic

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

The USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Online Purchasing Pilot allows households in participating States to use their SNAP or Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) benefits to buy groceries online from authorized, participating retailers. The pilot launched with several retailers in 2019 and early 2020 before the onset of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In response to the pandemic, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) opened the pilot to additional States and retailers. The number of participating retailers (each of which may include delivery or pickup from many individual stores) expanded significantly in the first two years of the pandemic. By December 2020, FNS had authorized 13 retailers. This number grew to 116 in December 2021 and to 148 in March 2022, providing benefit recipients with more options for redeeming their benefits online. The value of benefits redeemed online also grew. In 2020, SNAP and P-EBT recipients redeemed $1.5 billion in benefits online. In 2021, this amount more than quadrupled to $6.2 billion. Online redemptions in the first quarter of 2022 totaled $1.9 billion, representing 5.7 percent of all redemptions occurring in-person or online. This chart is based on a chart appearing in ERS’s Amber Waves article “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Online Purchasing Expanded in First Two Years of Pandemic,” published September 2022.

USDA’s National School Lunch Program served about 224 billion meals from 1971 through 2021

Thursday, October 6, 2022

The USDA’s National School Lunch Program (NSLP) was permanently authorized as a Child Nutrition Program in 1946. In fiscal year (FY) 2019, the program served about 29.6 million children each school day across 97,127 schools and residential childcare institutions. Any student in a participating school can get an NSLP lunch. Depending on their household’s income, students may be eligible for either a free, reduced-price, or full-price lunch. Students can receive a free lunch if their household’s income is at or below 130 percent of the Federal poverty line (FPL), a reduced-price lunch if their household’s income is between 130 and 185 percent of the FPL, and a full-price lunch if their household’s income is above 185 percent of the FPL. From 1971 through FY 2021, the program has served about 224.0 billion lunches. Of these meals, 126.4 billion were served for free or at a reduced price. The onset of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in March 2020 interrupted the operations of many schools, disrupting the provision of lunches through the NSLP in FY 2020 and FY 2021. As a result, about 3.2 billion lunches were served through the program in FY 2020 and 2.2 billion in FY 2021, fewer than the 4.9 billion served in FY 2019. This drop reflects the use of a USDA pandemic waiver allowing schools to serve meals through the Summer Food Service Program instead of the NSLP and the creation of the temporary Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program, which reimbursed eligible families for the value of school meals missed because of pandemic-related disruptions to in-person school attendance. A higher share of the meals served in FY 2020 and FY 2021 were served free or at a reduced-price, attributable in large part to a USDA pandemic waiver allowing for meals to be provided free of charge to all students. This chart appears on the USDA, Economic Research Service’s National School Lunch Program page on the Child Nutrition Programs topic page.

Food insecurity rates differ across U.S. States

Monday, September 19, 2022

USDA monitors the extent of food insecurity in U.S. households at the national and State levels through an annual U.S. Census Bureau survey. State-level estimates are obtained by averaging 3 years of data. This approach generates a larger sample size in each State and provides more reliable statistics that allow more precise estimates and more power to detect differences across States. Food-insecure households are those that had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all members of the house due to a lack of resources. Food insecurity rates vary across States because of household-level characteristics, State-level characteristics, and State-level policies. The estimated prevalence rates of food insecurity during 2019-21 ranged from 5.4 percent in New Hampshire to 15.3 percent in Mississippi. The estimated national average was 10.4 percent. The prevalence of food insecurity was significantly higher than the national average in nine States (AL, AR, KY, LA, MS, OK, SC, TX, and WV) and lower than the national average in the District of Columbia and 14 States (CA, IA, MA, MD, MN, ND, NH, NJ, PA, RI, SD, VA, VT, and WA). In the remaining 27 States, differences from the national average were not statistically significant. An interactive food insecurity map can be found on ERS’s Interactive Charts and Highlights page that allows users to view two measures of food insecurity over multiple years for each State. Users can also hover over the map to see State trends in food insecurity, how States compare to national food insecurity prevalence rates, and how States compare to each other. This map appears in ERS’s Key Statistics & Graphics page.