3 Ways COVID-19 Is Impacting Food Insecurity

by Kroger Health Staff

Last Updated: July 24, 2020

Food insecurity affects more than 820 million people worldwide. As a result of social distancing rules, movement restrictions, income losses, export restrictions, and labor shortages, it is likely an additional 130 million people will face food insecurity by the end of 2020. Although COVID-19 is negatively impacting circumstances, transcontinental issues preceded the global health crisis. Natural disasters, climate change, and pests were already affecting agriculture safety and food distribution. There are three key factors contributing to the decline in food security. Here’s what you need to know.
  1. Labor and income shortages.
    A number of factors contributed to more limited production output and supply chain disruption including social distancing rules to protect the safety of workers, processing facility closings, as well as trucking and logistic suspensions. Additionally, access to labor support for planting future crops has suffered, causing concern about upcoming production. With more limited supplies in higher demand, food is increasingly expensive while the average household income is declining rapidly. The production of wheat, rice, and corn - the most widely consumed cash crops - are at near or all-time highs, with price increases reaching the highest levels since 2013. According to a policy brief by the United Nations, 49 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty within 2020.
  2. Pre-existing crisis.
    While COVID-19 is expected to worsen food insecurity across the world, food systems were already under strain prior to the pandemic. Climate change, a major contributor to the decline of the world’s food systems, is also perpetuating the environmental crisis faced by the planet, accounting for almost a third of all greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, East Africa, where millions already struggle to obtain food regularly, is facing the worst locust infestation in 70 years. Swarms of locusts are able to eat their weight in crops each day, decimating vital resources for the underfed. Providing the perfect breeding ground for locusts, heavy floods have also displaced half a million people according to the World Health Organization (WHO), further affecting an already fragile health and food system.
  3. Mandated closings are affecting free meal programs.
    More than 22 million children in America receive a free or reduced-price lunch on an average school day. With schools and childcare facilities closed due to COVID-19, children miss out on food services equivalent to at least $30 a week, a financial strain many disadvantaged households cannot manage. Through the end of the school year, local authorities were able to utilize the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) summer food programs. However, even in the pre-COVID environment, only one in seven children who typically receive school lunch throughout the year receive summer lunch support. During April alone, food insecurity among children was reportedly 40% higher than forecasted prior to the onset of the pandemic. With so much still unknown about the longevity of the pandemic, there is potential for the number of food insecure children to escalate to a level that surpasses the highest total ever reported, which was in 2009 during The Great Recession.

Combating food insecurity is a huge undertaking, but there are several ways to do your part to resolve this global issue. Everyone can contribute. If you are unable to do so financially, do so with your time. Try volunteering at a local food bank or food pantry or start a food drive of your own. You can also contribute by reducing food waste. Check out these great tips from a Kroger Health Dietitian on how to stretch your grocery hauls further. At Kroger, we are committed to combating both hunger and food waste with our Zero Hunger Zero Waste initiative, making it our mission to end hunger in our communities and eliminate food waste across our company by 2025.

Disclaimer: The information in this story is accurate as of its publication. However, the situation surrounding COVID-19 is ever-evolving. We are working to keep our stories up-to-date as changes occur, but we also encourage everyone to check news and recommendations from the CDC, WHO, and their local authorities.