Pandemic Has Made Food It Even Harder For One In Three Americans
COVID-19 has made it more difficult for many communities to have access to food. According to the Michigan State University Fall 2021 Food Literacy and Engagement Survey, 31% of respondents said that the pandemic affected their ability to get food. This includes 28% households with less than $25,000 and 38% for those who earn more than $75,000 per year.
To understand how the pandemic affected the food landscape, and to determine what influenced people’s choices, diet, and food resources, we surveyed 2,002 Americans between August 27th and September 1st 2021.
Millions of Americans lost their jobs during the pandemic. It is therefore not surprising that 53% reported having less financial resources than before. Even worse, gasoline and food prices rose during that time. Families already struggling to make ends work had to make difficult decisions about how and where to spend less money.
Food Insecurity Is Rising
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food insecurity is defined as having restricted or uncertain access of adequate food. Low food security households have difficulty affording sufficient food and eating balanced meals.
The department estimated that more than 37 million Americans were insecure about their food in 2018, This number had reached 38.3million people by December 2020, 10.5% of American households.
74% of the respondents to our survey who said that they had limited access to food because of financial limitations chose other brands. Nearly half of respondents (47%) ate less and 31% were support by government programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. One in six (17%) said they visit food banks more frequently.
But money wasn’t all that was important. Respondents with limited access to food reported that 37% of them felt uncomfortable shopping at the supermarket and 32% did not have reliable transportation. Many people avoided public transport or ride-sharing because of the possibility of getting sick.
Half of those surveyed said that the pandemic had changed their purchasing and storage habits, regardless of financial limitations. 51% of those surveyed now prefer foods with a longer shelf life. 50% store more foods at home, while 48% make fewer grocery store trips. These trends could be link to uncertainty, speculation, and high-profile supply chain disruptions.
Some Americans have also begun to pay more attention to what doesn’t get eaten because of the pandemic. 27 percent of the respondents said that they pay more attention to food waste. Globally, foods waste accounts for 6% of greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S. also wastes between 30-40% of its foods supply, while 6.1 million children in the United States are currently foods-insecure. Therefore, reducing foods wastage can address multiple problems simultaneously.
69% of the respondents had received at minimum one COVID-19 vaccination by the time we conducted our survey. 67% of those who had received their first COVID-19 vaccine reported that they went to the grocery store more frequently after getting it. Similar results were report by 33% who spent more time at the grocery store after being vaccinate and 29% who said they could transport and access their groceries more easily. Only 15% of respondents who vaccinate had remove their masks from areas where they weren’t need.
Our poll results show how the pandemic has changed many Americans lives in complicated and interconnected ways. These changes are not permanent but we can predict. That Americans will continue to have more choices and access to foods, as well as the pandemic.