Comparing Food Security Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Considerations When Choosing Measures

Food insecurity (FI) is a public health issue in the US. Over the past 25 years, national prevalence of food insecurity – encompassing both low and very low food security – has been consistently over 10 percent, and very low food security alone has persisted at over 3 percent. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020 and ensuing economic crisis and disruption of food systems have only served to exacerbate its prevalence. In response, the research community has made laudable efforts to track the pandemic’s influence on the prevalence of food insecurity across the country. However, for the sake of expediency, many food security measures used were inconsistent with validated, pre-pandemic measures. This incompatibility will likely lead to estimation errors, which in turn will produce inaccurate conclusions resulting in potentially detrimental policy and resource-allocation decisions. This commentary aims to reinforce the necessity of consistent and careful use of validated measures when making comparisons between pre- and post-pandemic data to arrive at accurate conclusions and recommendations.