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Some Parents Are Going Hungry During The Pandemic To Ensure Their Kids Have Food To Eat

With the government slow to send stimulus relief, parents are struggling to find support in dealing with food insecurity.

It's no secret that for many parents, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has brought on a lot of hardships, including increased food insecurity. With little economic relief from the federal government, it seems some parents are skipping meals to keep their kids fed during the pandemic, according to a recent poll commissioned by Two Good Yogurt.

Of the 2,000 adults surveyed about their pandemic experiences by OnePoll in October for a poll commissioned by Two Good Yogurt as part of its One Cup, Less Hunger program, at least half reported not having enough money to purchase food. A total of 37% of respondents further said they had skipped meals so their children could eat. Another 35% said they have had the experience of not knowing where their next meal would come from.

What's more, a whopping 79% of the survey's respondents said they had struggled to find support when facing food insecurity while six in 10 respondents reported that the expiration of federal stimulus programs added to the difficulties they faced in providing adequate food for their family.

"Two Good supported this survey to drive conversation around the increasingly urgent issue of food insecurity in our country," Surbhi Martin, Danone North America's vice president of marketing, said in a statement released alongside the poll's results. "We found that for nearly 40% of respondents, COVID-19 contributed to their first experience with food insecurity. The majority of those surveyed (63%) also did not realize they were food insecure — indicating a clear discrepancy in our collective understanding of what constitutes food insecurity in the first place.”

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But high rates of food insecurity are a problem not just because of the hungry bellies and poor nutrition it results. According to the Brookings Institute, "food insecurity is a leading indicator of economic distress" as it tends to "rise before poverty rates catch up." A recent fall update from the Brookings Institute on food insecurity in the United States noted that although rates of moderate to severe food insecurity had been on a downward trajectory in the years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, they have since increased.

"Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, food insecurity has increased in the United States," the Brookings Institute's Lauren Bauer wrote in the think tank's most recent update on the topic. "In 2020, food insecurity among all households and households with children remained elevated over 2019 levels and levels of food insecurity reported during the Great Recession."

And while food insecurity is an issue that any individual can — and does — experience, Bauer noted that in her research she found "low-income families with children are most likely to have experienced an income loss and most likely to have an income loss coincide with reporting very low food security among the household’s children."

It's also important to note that there are substantial racial and ethnic disparities present in data pertaining to food insecurity. According to a recent study from the Urban Institute, 40.8% of families with Black parents and 39.1% of families with Hispanic and Latinx parents reported experiencing food insecurity from August to September — rates that were nearly triple the rate at which families with white parents reported experiencing food insecurity (15.1% of families).

Of course, parents skipping meals isn't the answer to families' food insecurity. Federal economic relief is. But with Congress set to deliver direct economic impact payments of just $600, it's hard to see how families already struggling with food insecurity will stretch the second stimulus check to ensure both they and their children can eat regular meals.

If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here.