New data from census surveys show that 56% of U.S. homes with children are not confident in their ability to afford food over the next four weeks.
According to the data, 5.6 million families have also reported struggling to purchase food in the last week.
The census data cover the period between August 19 and October 26. Twelve percent of households with children said they sometimes or often lacked sufficient food in the last week. When looking at the next month, 56% of such households said they were "moderately," "somewhat," or "not at all" confident that they would be able to afford adequate food, with 9% saying they were "not at all confident."
"A lot of these families are slipping between the cracks because they are not necessarily poor. They are not necessarily destitute," said Daniel Chessare, owner of Saratoga's Broadway Deli in Saratoga, New York. "They're not lining up for food stamps or whatever but they are not necessarily making enough money to support their families."
The news comes as places such as New York and New Jersey report that more than one-third of small businesses have closed since the start of the pandemic due to government lockdowns.
According to the Washington Post, more Americans are going hungry now than at any other point of the pandemic. Additional research indicates the U.S. is seeing the highest level of food insecurity since the Census Bureau began collecting such data in 1998.
"It's a lot of people out here," Randy Young, a former stadium cook, told The Washington Post while waiting in line to get a free Thanksgiving meal. "I was just telling my mom, ‘You look at people pulling up in Mercedes and stuff, come on.' If a person driving a Mercedes is in need of food, you know it's bad."
Joseph Llobrera, director of research at The Center of Budget and Policy Priorities, said that "widespread food hardship that continues into the holiday season" is likely unless there is immediate government relief. Llobrera said even temporary disruption in food security can have lasting effects on children's development.
"While the risk is greatest for children who chronically lack sufficient food, the shock of becoming food insecure may itself affect children's behavior, and living in a household that's even temporarily food insecure is linked with negative development among toddlers," he said.
Llobrera also discussed additional financial difficulties and negative psychological impact that families in such situations face.
"More than 4 in 10 children live in households that are struggling to cover such basic costs as food, rent or mortgage, car payments, medical expenses, or student loans," he said.
Jeremy K. Everett, executive director of the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty in Waco, Texas, said the sharp decrease in food security has "been driven by the virus and the unpredictable government response."
🔦 Experts have said that food security is being threatened worldwide because of labor shortages due to the pandemic, income loss, and a shift in food demand because of the closures of restaurants and schools.