A Call for Theory to Guide Equity-Focused Federal Child Nutrition Program Policy Responses and Recovery Efforts in Times of Public Health Crisis
The COVID-19 pandemic and its related mitigation efforts have had a dramatic impact on food and nutrition security in the United States. During this period, families with children were particularly vulnerable, demonstrating incredible nutritional need. Prior to the pandemic, rates of food insecurity among households with children had been generally declining. Specifically, the prevalence of food insecurity among households with children under the age of 18 was 13.6% in 2019 compared to 20.6% in 2011. However, resulting from COVID-19, these rates rose to 14.8% in 2020. Another measure of food hardship collected during the pandemic has been food insufficiency (i.e., sometimes or often not having enough to eat) which increased among households with children from 9.8% in April 2020 to 13.7% in December 2020. Food insecurity and insufficiency rates are further pronounced in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) households. For example, in contrast to households overall, food insecurity in Black and Hispanic/Latinx headed households increased in 2020 during the pandemic, resulting in Hispanic children being more than twice as likely, and Black children almost three times more likely, to live in a food-insecure household than white children. Consequently, not only is there a need for our national food and nutrition assistance system to improve food insecurity and food insufficiency in families with children generally, but also to address racial/ethnic, socioeconomic, and other disparities.