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1 in 5 Young Children Don’t Have Enough to Eat During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Nearly 1 in 5 young children in the U.S. are not getting enough to eat during the coronavirus pandemic, and the share of households experiencing food insecurity has risen at a rate unprecedented in modern times, new research and analysis shows.

In a survey conducted by the Brookings Institution in late April, 17.4% of mothers with children under the age of 12 agreed with the statement that, since the pandemic started, "the children in my household were not eating enough because we just couldn't afford enough food." That figure is more than three times higher than in 2008, during the height of the Great Recession and roughly 4 1/2 times higher than in 2018, according to government data.

Food insecurity in general has also skyrocketed. In households that cannot afford enough to eat, adults will often skip meals to lessen the impact on their children.

A Brookings Institution analysis of the COVID Impact Survey, a poll conducted in late April by NORC at the University of Chicago, found that nearly 35% of individuals in households with children of any age reported that "the food we bought just didn't last, and we didn't have enough money to get more." That figure is an increase of roughly 20 percentage points from 2018.

Among mothers in households with children under 12, the share experiencing general food insecurity jumped to more than 40%, according to the Brookings Institution – an increase of roughly 25 percentage points from 2018 and about double the share of households that reported the same in 2008.

Overall, nearly 23% of all households reported being food insecure. In 2018, only about 11 percent reported struggling to afford enough food.

The findings come as Democrats and Republicans are locked in a showdown over an increase in food stamp benefits. Democrats have pushed for a 15% increase in funding for food stamps for the duration of the economic crisis. That proposal has been blocked by Republicans who say that increases in other safety-net programs are enough.

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Schedule23 Sep 2023