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Why Did Food Insecurity Increase from 2019 to 2022 in the United States? 

Perspectives on Opportunity

March 12, 2024


In 2022, the United States witnessed a notable rise in household food insecurity, reversing a decade-long decline. Some observers have argued that the expiration of government relief efforts stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic caused the one-year spike. However, the household food insecurity rate was higher in 2022 than in 2019, the year before the pandemic started. We explore several potential reasons for the household food insecurity increase from 2019 to 2022. We find that neither changes in the social safety net nor underlying economic factors, such as unemployment, could explain this trend. Instead, we attribute the increase to a rise in food price inflation during this period, compounded by changes in the survey methodology for food insecurity assessment. The increase in food insecurity would likely have been larger without expansions to the social safety net during this time. We conclude with several recommendations to keep food price inflation low.