Among the problems created by the COVID-19 pandemic is that many people who live in poverty, those with low wages that keep them just above the poverty level and those who lack job security have to make very difficult decisions about expenses. The federal government, in particular the U.S. Census Bureau, has attempted to track the effects of the pandemic on the most vulnerable portions of the population through what it calls the Household Pulse Survey, which is now in its 23rd week of data gathering. Among the conditions its questionnaires probe for is whether people can afford food.
The Pulse Survey has labeled the hunger problem as “food scarcity.” This is defined as “adults in households where there was either sometimes or often not enough to eat in the last 7 days.”
The data is collected among a sample of adults ages 18 and older.
Kentucky ranked highest on the list at 16.9%, followed by Louisiana (16.7%), Georgia (15.2%) and Alabama and Alaska (both 14.4%).
The numbers were lowest in the Northeast and the Plains States: Vermont and Wyoming (both 5.8%), Montana (6.1%), North Dakota (6.5%) and Massachusetts and Washington (both 6.8%).
Although the Pulse Survey does not match the food scarcity issue with income, it is notable that Kentucky, Louisiana and Alabama all rank among the nine lowest states sorted by median household income.
The U.S. Census Bureau has conducted the Household Pulse Survey since April 23, 2020. The 23rd week covers the period from January 20 through February 1, 2021. Although the Census uses the term “week,” collection periods cover two weeks. Data is collected from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as from the 15 largest metropolitan statistical areas. The primary subjects covered by the survey are learning activities, internet availability, education situations, anticipated loss of wages, presence of depression and anxiety, housing, transportation and travel.