The vast expansion of aid prevented food insecurity from growing last year

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While food insecurity has declined overall, it has increased among households with children – to 7.6% last year, up from 6.5% in 2019. One likely explanation is the widespread closure of schools, a reminder that ‘they play an important, though often overlooked, role in delivery. food aid.

Before the pandemic, Judith Bartfeld, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin, found that school meals represented up to 7% of the economic resources of low-income households. This financial contribution approached the impact of the Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, the main federal program to fight hunger, which has provided more than 10 percent of household resources but is larger and more visible. .

“One of the big lessons from the pandemic is the critical role school meals play as part of the nutritional safety net,” said Bartfeld. “The value of school meals became transparent when the meals were gone. “

School closures may also have indirectly increased food difficulties, preventing parents from returning to work.

Among the programs in the pandemic era, there is one that has replaced the value of lost school meals with electronic benefit cards. Research has shown that this reduced dietary difficulties, although many states granted aid after significant delays. Congress has extended the program into the summers of 2020 and 2021, and the Biden administration wants to make the summer electronic benefits program permanent, in order to combat the rise in hunger that typically accompanies school closings.

Most states participated in the summer program this year, with the notable exception of Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, without explanation refused to ask for the $ 820 million the state could receive in. federal aid.

Long-standing disparities in food insecurity between black and white households had narrowed in recent years. But last year they got even bigger. Although the share of food insecure white households fell by 0.8 percentage points, it increased by 1.6 percentage points in Hispanic households and 2.6 percentage points in black households.

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