The stark economic reality of the pandemic is clear in the statistics of layoffs, closed businesses and reduced consumer spending but it’s particularly harsh when analysing the numbers for food poverty in the U.K. and the U.S. Here’s a breakdown of five of the most important figures.
1 in 10–the number of Americans without enough food
CBS News reported that 1 in 10 Americans reported that they often or sometimes don’t have enough to eat–a figure that is twice what it was pre-pandemic. 1 in 5 adults also said they were behind in their rent.
However, when the data is analysed by race, these figures dramatically increase–Black and Hispanic adults have been disproportionately hit; 1 in 5 were struggling to find enough food and one third of Black households and one third of Hispanic adults were behind on their rent.
3 million–the number of British people currently going hungry
Even at the beginning of the pandemic, 3 million British people stated in a survey by The Food Foundation that “a lack of food had forced someone in their household to go without eating during the past three weeks”.
The YouGov poll, reported by The Financial Times, found that an even higher amount–16% of respondents, the equivalent of 8.1 million people–said they had experienced some kind of food insecurity because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A recent research paper found that Covid-19 had “at least quadrupled demand for emergency food relief” and put an enormous strain on the 2,100 food banks that exist around the U.K.
Separate research shows that there was an 89% increase in food parcels delivered by these food banks in April 2020 compared to April 2019.
34.5%–the number of food insecure families with children in the U.S.
A Brookings Institute survey analysed food insecurity in the U.S. and found that families with younger children are disproportionately affected. A staggering 34.5% of households with a child under 18 were deemed food insecure by the study, which is a 130% increase on 2018 figures.
By late April 2020, 22.7 percent of households reported “not having sufficient resources to buy more food when the food that they purchased didn’t last”. In 2018, this figure was 11.1% meaning that the rate of food insecurity amongst American families, in regard to not having the resources to buy more food, has doubled.
1.8 million–the number of U.K. school children at risk of hunger in the morning or 1 in 5 (20%)
The ‘Empty Plate’ installation on London’s South Bank was created by Heinz and charity, Magic Breakfast, to highlight the number of kids who fall into the category of ‘hunger risk’ in the morning. The installation shows 1,800 plates, representing the 1.8 million and is currently in front of Tower Bridge.
According to research conducted by Heinz and Magic Breakfast, 28% of teachers in the U.K. are reporting an increase in kids coming to school without breakfast since the start of term in 2020, compared to the same time in 2019–and that figure increases to a staggering 43% in schools with above average numbers of disadvantaged children.
A U.K. project called #SilenceTheRumble is trying to help, providing healthy breakfasts to children at risk. Magic Breakfast is working with Heinz to feed kids before school and has released an ad to highlight the issue. Heinz has pledged 12 million free breakfasts to help tackle the issue. They are currently working with 100 schools across the country, reaching an estimated 100,000 children.
56%–the number of senior Mississippians experiencing food poverty
The pandemic has heavily affected Mississippi and with layoffs, it now has the lowest labor participation rate in the entire country at just 53%.
According to the non-profit organisation, Feeding America, one in four Mississippi residents regularly don’t get enough to eat. And more than half (56%) of the state’s senior citizens, as reported by The New York Times, have regular shortfalls in food.
As the article states, for many experiencing food insecurity–and some for the first time–it is about “the shame and embarrassment. The loss of choice in something as basic as what to eat. The worry over how to make sure their children get a healthy diet. The fear that their lives will never get back on track.”