Elevated food insecurity underscores need to protect and strengthen nutrition programs.
The USDA’s Household Food Security Report, released Wednesday, confirms what the Greater Chicago Food Depository has been seeing in our community – food insecurity remains elevated, particularly for households with children. This sobering reality underscores the urgency at which Congress and the White House should take action to protect and strengthen federal nutrition programs.
The report states that, in 2022, 12.8 percent of US households (17 million households) experienced food insecurity, significantly higher than the 10.2 percent recorded in 2021 (13.5 million households) and the 10.5 percent recorded in 2020 (13.8 million households). The risk of hunger is greater for households with children, where food insecurity jumped from 12.5 percent to 17.3 percent.
In 2022, COVID-era investments in the safety net shrank while American households endured the highest inflation in 42 years.
We are concerned the need in 2023 is on pace to be higher. This year, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits were cut, and food insecurity in the Chicago Metro Area – especially among children – also increased. In Cook County, our partner network of food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters recorded 13 percent more household visits to their programs this September than the same month last year.
Recent estimates from Northwestern University economists point to one in five Chicago Metro area households (20 percent) and one in four households with children (25 percent) experiencing food insecurity during the last two weeks of September – similar levels to what we were seeing during the first few months of the pandemic. (Source: Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University provided by Dr. Diane Schanzenbach, Food Depository board member.)
Data has shown that the safety net works. Expanded SNAP benefits and pandemic EBT lifted millions of families out of food insecurity during 2020 and 2021. The solution to ending hunger is in front of us. We urge Congress and the White House to invest in federal nutrition programs, especially SNAP and WIC, not reduce them as some proposals are suggesting.
The greatest opportunity to strengthen SNAP is in the Farm Bill. With the potential for a government shutdown looming, we urge the White House and Congress to keep the federal government open and focus on a new Farm Bill. A shutdown has the potential to increase hardship and hunger for millions of Americans at a time when many are still struggling to navigate the cumulative effects of inflation, elevated food prices, and the rollback of crucial government assistance programs. These programs play an essential role in protecting Americans from hunger. Food relief organizations, including the Food Depository, cannot end hunger alone.
It is imperative that we keep the government open, fund nutrition programs, strengthen SNAP and WIC, and deliver a strong Farm Bill.