The world’s largest economy and food-producing country has faced a hunger crisis even before the coronavirus pandemic, which has exacerbated the problem. Miles of cars lined up to receive meals from food banks, as the unprecedented surge in unemployment created skyrocketing demand for food assistance that overwhelmed food pantries and affected large segments of the U.S. population.
In 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic was declared a national emergency in 2020, the U.S. government spent $92.4 billion on food assistance programs, accounting for 2.4% of the $4.4 trillion in government spending that fiscal year. The program spending was down by 5% from the previous year and by 22% from the recent peak spending year in 2013.
Americans have access to 15 nutrition assistance programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Millions of families across the country have received benefits through these government programs, which include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the national school lunch program, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC program). Here’s how many children live in poverty in your state.
SNAP provided relief to an average of 35.7 million people every month in 2019. The national school lunch program, the second largest food assistance program, served 29.4 million children each school day in 2019. The WIC program provided food assistance to 6.4 million people each month. In 2017, 7.3 million people received WIC benefits, including half of all children born in the U.S. that year.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed the latest available monthly food assistance program statistics for March and April 2020 in every state. We concentrated on SNAP, the largest nutrition assistance program. In March, shortly after the start of the U.S. outbreak, 37.1 million individuals received SNAP benefits. In April, that figure rose 15.8% to 43.0 million people, well above the pre-pandemic monthly average.
While more recent data is not available, the increase even at that time was likely tied to the job losses, public health crises, rising food prices, and other factors associated with the coronavirus. All but four states reported increases in SNAP recipients between March and April this year. Click here to see 19 groceries driving up your bill during the pandemic.