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Expanded Federal Food Aid Helps Flatten the Hunger Curve

A new report from USDA shows that despite the ups and downs of our economy, food insecurity rates held steady: 1 in 10 US households struggled to put food on the table in 2020. USDA’s study also estimates that in Washington, food insecurity slightly decreased: 1 in 11 Washington households were food insecure.

These numbers have not changed significantly compared to 2019. The reason? Expanded food assistance from government programs, including SNAP, WIC for pregnant/nursing women and young children, universal school meals, and Pandemic EBT worked hand-in-hand with charitable food distribution to help meet the deeper need caused by our economic crisis.

When you dig into the household demographics of the report, we find further affirmation that the pandemic has exacerbated hunger for households that were already struggling. In fact, food insecurity rates rose for Black and Latinx families; their struggles with hunger were 1.5 to twice the rate of all food insecure households. Households with children had higher rates of food insecurity especially for single mothers. Nearly 35% of people living in poverty were food insecure, and those who could not work or were prevented from looking for work because of the pandemic also struggled with hunger at up to twice the US household food insecurity rate.

This news may appear to contradict other studies, but it’s a reminder that food insecurity is not a constant-it rises and falls as resources and aid become available. It’s also a reminder that hunger is inequitable, that our most vulnerable are those who have had the least access to resources. This news also brings hope: we have data that shows how expanded assistance works. It closes gaps for those who struggle the most while acting as a stronger safety net to help lift us out of temporary crises.

The good news is the time and the opportunity is now for Congress to end hunger once and for all by making a generation changing investment in these programs. We can keep our economy working by making permanent the assistance expansions that are working at ending hunger and poverty.

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