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Reducing child food insecurity after COVID-19: Policy innovations and cross-sector partnerships

Suarez L, Cholera R
Health Affairs Forefront

Childhood food insecurity rapidly increased in the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the rate of food insecurity in households with children nearly doubling to almost 30 percent by the summer of 2020. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that nearly 15 percent of children nationwide lived in households experiencing food insecurity by the end of 2020, which was the first rise in food insecurity rates since 2011, and Black and Hispanic families were disproportionately impacted. This substantial rise in demand for food support catalyzed rapid and much-needed changes in supplemental food systems that were previously hindered for decades by complicated enrollment procedures and outdated regulations. For example, federal waivers issued during the pandemic permitted remote issuance of Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) benefits, extension of certification periods for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and replacement of school meals through the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program. These temporary policy changes were accompanied by new or strengthened local community responses, ranging from greater investment in food banks to increased reach of programs providing supplemental weekend food to children.

Suarez L, Cholera R. Reducing child food insecurity after COVID-19: policy innovations and cross-sector partnerships. Health Affairs Forefront. June 15. 2022. Available online.

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