STATEMENT: New USDA numbers underscore hunger pandemic in United States

Contact: Johanna Elsemore at

BALTIMORE, MD: 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 Maryland Director Ayesha Holmes:

“The number of Maryland families struggling with hunger has skyrocketed since the coronavirus swept across our nation, creating an economic crisis alongside a health one. As the pandemic rages on, the situation continues to become more dire for many kids as their parents struggle to make ends meet.

Last month, No Kid Hungry Maryland released a new report based on data from the most recent Maryland Youth Risk Behavior Survey/Youth Tobacco Survey (YRBS/YTS) that showed troubling rates of food insecurity among Maryland’s middle and high school students. Overall, about 1 in every 4 secondary school students lack consistent access to the healthy food they need, and the risk of experiencing food insecurity is significantly higher for Black students and Hispanic/Latino students, as compared to White students.

Worse yet, this startling data reflects food insecurity rates among Maryland students before COVID-19 hit. Data from Northwestern University shows more than 1 in every 3 Maryland households with children is currently struggling with food insecurity. The YRBS/YTS data, taken together with our current knowledge of the impact of COVID-19 on food insecurity in Maryland, has revealed an urgent crisis for families with children. If this trend continues, the consequences will be felt for years to come.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There are programs like school meals, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Pandemic EBT that 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, was a critical support last school year for more than 450,000 students across Maryland. The extension of P-EBT benefits for September is good news for families and this important support must continue to be renewed to help families this entire school year, or as long as schools remain closed;
  • 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.”