Investments Needed to Strengthen and Protect Safety Net Programs for Child and Family Health as Data Reveal a Rise in Food Insecurity Rates

In late October, the United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service released their annual report revealing an alarming increase in food insecurity across all household types from 2021 to 2022.

Overall, in 2022 12.8% of households were food insecure compared to 10.2% in 2021. This change demonstrates a significant increase of 25% in the number of households experiencing lack of food, representing an additional 10.3 million people.

Households with children under 18 saw even higher increases in food insecurity. In 2022, 17.3% were food insecure compared to 12.5% in 2021. This equates to a 38% increase, representing an additional 4.1 million children who lived in households experiencing food insecurity in 2022. The report also specifically looks at food insecurity for families with children under age 6, who are in a critical window of growth and development. Those households saw 29.5% increase in food insecurity, increasing from 12.9% in 2021 to 16.7% in 2022.

The report documented a significant widening of racial disparities in food insecurity rates. Latino households experienced food insecurity rates increase at double the rate of white non-Latino or Black, non-Latino households. Both Black and Latino households experience levels of food insecurity at more than double of White non-Latino households.

For 25 years, Children’s HealthWatch research has consistently shown that household food insecurity increases the likelihood of young children being in fair or poor health, experiencing hospitalizations, iron-deficiency anemia, and developmental delays. We are deeply concerned about the recent increase in food insecurity and child poverty in 2022, following the expiration of several pandemic-era supports that temporarily improved the health and financial stability of families across the country.

Decisions made in Congress directly affect the health and well-being of children and their families. Robust investments during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the advance Child Tax Credit, increased Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, and expansions to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), resulted in significant reductions in child poverty and food insecurity at a truly devastating time. As those investments ended, Congress allowed these improvements in moving children and families out of poverty to disappear.

Children’s HealthWatch remains steadfast in our commitment to demonstrating how policies impact the health and well-being of families with young children and advocating for improvements to evidence-based programs including the Child Tax Credit, SNAP, and WIC. We call upon Congress to make critically needed investments in anti-poverty programs to ensure families with children have the resources needed to grow and thrive.