Food Hardship during the COVID-19 Pandemic and Great Recession

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


I compare the extent of food hardships in the United States among adults and seniors before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Food insufficiency increased threefold compared to 2019, and more than doubled relative to the Great Recession. Food insufficiency among seniors increased 75% during the COVID period, but more than doubled when including reduced intake of food varieties. Receipt of charitable foods among disadvantaged adults spiked 50% in the COVID period, but the initial response among seniors was a sharp reduction, before rising. These patterns are consistent with strong social distancing measures enacted in response to the pandemic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-152
Number of pages21
JournalApplied Economic Perspectives and Policy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements: I received excellent research assistance from Hyein Kang and Kenneth Tester, and I am grateful to Craig Gundersen, Colleen Heflin, and Laura Tiehen for very helpful comments on earlier drafts. I received support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, grant # 58‐4000‐6‐0059‐R, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, grant AE00103, through the Institute for Research on Poverty at University of Wisconsin. The opinions and conclusions expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of any federal sponsor. 1

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Agricultural & Applied Economics Association


  • Aging
  • Charitable food assistance
  • Food insecurity
  • Food insufficiency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Economics and Econometrics


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