By Marie Haaland // SWNS
Six in 10 Americans have faced “food insecurity” at some point in their lives, and of those, 73% experienced it for the first time since the start of the pandemic, according to new research.
The survey of 2,000 Americans with an annual household income under $100K found, of those who have faced food insecurity — defined by the USDA as a “lack of available financial resources for food for all members of the home” — 35% said they personally skipped meals.
Thirty-one percent said they didn’t know where their next meal would come from, while 32% of those who experienced food insecurity said they didn’t have enough money to buy food.
The survey included over 9,000 respondents from 21 countries and revealed that globally, the effect of the pandemic on food insecurity was less severe than in the U.S.
Globally, results found 49% have experienced food insecurity during their lives — of those, 61% experienced it for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
“Access to affordable healthy food should be the norm for every person but, tragically, we find ourselves in a global crisis that needs our attention with more than 820 million people around the world living in hunger, a crisis that has been compounded by the pandemic,” said Dr. Kent Bradley, Chief Health and Nutrition Officer at Herbalife Nutrition.
Of those surveyed, their concern isn’t only for themselves: 58% of respondents globally are parents, and for those who have experienced food insecurity, 88% are worried their child will have lasting health effects as a result of food insecurity during the pandemic.
Seventy percent of parents globally said their child was currently distance learning, and of those, about six in 10 said they typically rely on school meals to ensure their child is eating healthy meals.
Therefore, 70% are worried their child is not getting all the nutrients they need — as a result of not having access to school meals while they are distance learning.
“In the U.S. one in four children are living in a food insecure household,” said Travis Arnold, President and CEO of Feed the Children, a nonprofit organization focused on alleviating childhood hunger. “Many children who are no longer attending childcare centers or in-person school have limited access to school meals — a source of nutritious meals for millions of students across the country.
“Since food insecurity and poor nutrition are associated with several chronic illnesses, the food access crisis threatens to intensify the disparities in health for at-risk children and families.”
Even during a normal, in-person school year though, school meals aren’t as accessible as some respondents would like.
Seventy-eight percent of American respondents believe school meals should be available free of charge — and the same number believe “meal debt” from schools should be eliminated.
But school meals are only one piece of healthy eating, and results found 60% of global respondents said they struggle to eat a diet that aligns with their country’s national dietary guidelines.
Part of the problem might be because respondents are unaware of their country’s national dietary guidelines — in the U.S., 45% of respondents believed the current nutritional guidelines were represented by a pyramid.
That’s out of date, as the current guidelines use a circle, or a “food plate.” Even when shown a photo of the food plate, American respondents (36%) still struggled to identify which section represented each food group.
They were most likely to correctly place vegetables (29%) on the food plate, and least likely to correctly identify where fruits belonged (6%).
“Understanding the guidelines for a healthy balanced diet is important and we need, as a human race, to ensure that people all over the world have access to affordable healthy foods,” added Dr. Kent Bradley.
American respondents reported other struggles with eating according to their country’s national guidelines, beyond not knowing what those recommendations were.
For those respondents, they reported having a harder time storing fresh foods during the pandemic, due to less frequent trips to the grocery store (56%).
That’s in addition to healthy food being too expensive for many to afford (47%), not being sure which foods fall into each of those categories (40%) — and healthy food not being available in their area (34%).
IN WHAT WAYS DID AMERICAN RESPONDENTS FACE FOOD INSECURITY?*
- Started shopping at different, less expensive stores 41%
- Started purchasing less expensive foods 40%
- Received food assistance from a food bank or a local community center 40%
- Cut back on the amount of food I purchase at once 39%
- I personally skipped meals 35%
- Held onto food to have at a later time 34%
- Didn’t have enough money to buy food 32%
- My family skipped meals 31%
- I didn’t know where my next meal would come from 31%
* Of the 61% of respondents who have faced food insecurity