STATEMENT: New USDA numbers underscore hunger pandemic in United States

Contact: Johanna Elsemore at

New Orleans, LA: This morning, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its annual food security report, Household Food Security in the United States in 2019. This data, which covers the 2019 calendar year, is a stark reminder of how quickly hunger in this nation has skyrocketed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the USDA, in 2019, 5.3 million children were food insecure, the lowest number on record since the agency began tracking these statistics in 1998. Today, it’s a much different story. Recent estimates find anywhere from 9-17 million children are not getting enough to eat, and studies show Black and Hispanic families with children are hit the hardest. The following is a statement from No Kid Hungry Louisiana Director Rhonda Jackson:

“The number of Louisiana families struggling with hunger has skyrocketed since the coronavirus swept across our nation, as lost jobs and wages have made it difficult for many families to pay their bills and put food on the table.

Now the pandemic rages on at the same time that Hurricane Laura has caused damage and disruption for many families, presenting an additional threat to their health and economic stability. The situation continues to become more dire for many kids whose families are being devastated by multiple crises at the same time.

Families who are eligible for SNAP and live in counties heavily impacted by the storm are eligible to receive Disaster SNAP. This short-term program provides a month’s worth benefits on a card that can be used to purchase food at retail stores, helping meet nutritional needs following a disaster.

There are also longer term solutions. Programs like school meals, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Pandemic EBT work together effectively and efficiently to make sure hungry kids get the nutrition they need. But without federal action, they will continue to fall far short of reaching all the families that need them.

  • Schools need child nutrition waivers extended through the end of the academic year so they can plan and prepare their meal programs and continue reaching the increasing number of kids in need;
  • Pandemic EBT, which provides a benefit to replace meals kids miss while schools are closed, only covered last school year and has expired. It must be renewed to help families this school year as well;
  • SNAP benefits, a critical resource that helps families purchase groceries for their kids are entirely too low and the need is too vast. Congress must increase SNAP benefits by 15% during this crisis, which works out to approximately $25 more per person a month.

Without action, next year’s food security numbers will show many, many more families struggling with hunger. We cannot let this crisis continue to erode more than a decade worth of progress in the fight against hunger in this nation. To put our nation back on the path toward ending childhood hunger, Congress and the administration must work together and act now.