On October 25, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its “Household Food Security” report for 2022, featuring the latest data on food (in)security in the U.S.
Chief among its relevant findings for faith communities working to address food insecurity and food access is the sharp uptick in food insecurity from 2021 to 2022. The report indicates that 2.3 percent more Americans (roughly 10.3 million people) experienced food insecurity in 2022, totaling 12.8 percent of the population (approximately 44.2 million people). Food insecurity is defined as having difficulty at some times during the year to provide enough food for all members of a household because of a lack of resources.
A parallel rise in food insecurity was found among households with children, as data shows 8.8 percent of U.S. households with children (3.3. million households) were food insecure at times during 2022, a 2.6 percent jump from 2021. Food insecurity rates were statistically significantly higher than the national average for several groups, including:
- Households with children under age 6 (16.7 percent)
- Households with children headed by a single female (33.1 percent) // by a single male (21.2 percent)
- Households with a Black reference person (22.4 percent) // Hispanic reference person (20.8 percent)
The USDA report comes at a time when discussions are happening in the halls of power over the future of food-assistance programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). This is particularly pertinent for the conversation around food security, as the USDA’s report found that “about 55 percent of food-insecure households in the survey reported that in the previous month they participated in one or more of…SNAP, WIC, and the National School Lunch Program.”
Some pandemic-era support programs like emergency benefits for SNAP and the child tax credit were major players in lowering food insecurity, but have expired and were not renewed.
The increase in emergency benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic gave more money to SNAP users and subsequently lowered food insecurity; however, those benefits expired in March of 2023, with some SNAP users seeing a benefit decrease as stark as $260 a month.
Food Research & Action Center’s (FRAC) research on the 2021 Expanded Child Tax Credit found “food insufficiency rates declined dramatically among households with children during the period when households were receiving the monthly advanced CTC payments.” Some research suggests the CTC payments led to as much as a 25 percent decline in food insufficiency amongst households with children.
In addition to rolling back pandemic-era policies, some members of Congress are attempting to cut SNAP funding even further. Earlier in 2023, Congress raised the work requirement age for SNAP benefits as part of a debt ceiling agreement, a move which could put approximately 750,000 people at risk of losing SNAP benefits if they are unable to continue working at their age.
For the many faith leaders in the Come to the Table network, this information serves as a stark reminder that the call to love one’s neighbor requires meeting immediate needs, but also advocating for change to the broken and unjust systems. As Congress continues to discuss funding, rules, and regulations for programs like SNAP, faith leaders should continue to make their voice heard on the impact these programs have on food security. Sign up here to receive action alerts on the Farm Bill from RAFI.