Food insecurity linked to Covid-19 remains high one year after the start of the pandemic

Vermont Business Magazine Food insecurity in Vermont has reached record levels during the Covid-19 pandemic with nearly one in three Vermonters experiencing food insecurity at some point since March 2020. Today, new research from the University of Vermont finds nearly two-thirds (62%) of these Vermonters. were still food insecure a year after the start of the pandemic.

The findings are the latest in a series of surveys conducted by Meredith Niles and colleagues at the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences and UVM’s Gund Institute for Environment to understand the impact of the pandemic on food security. and access to food. The study is one of the first to follow the same group of individuals (441 Vermonters) over a full year and builds on previous reports released by the research team at various intervals during the pandemic.

More than half of survey respondents said they experienced a work disruption during the pandemic, such as job loss, reduced work hours or earnings, or time off. Of these, 18.2% were still suffering a work stoppage one year after the start of the pandemic. However, only 1 in 5 people who experienced a job interruption have been made unemployed at any time during the first year of the pandemic.

Photo: Students harvesting onions at UVM Catamount Farm. Surplus crops are donated to organizations providing food aid in Vermont. Courtesy photo.

Vermonters who remained food insecure in March 2021 were more likely to still experience a job disruption and to have been food insecure before the start of the pandemic. Additionally, those most likely to experience food insecurity include people without a university degree (4.1 times more), women (2.4 times more), households with children (2.4 times more) and people under 55 (twice as many).

“What we are seeing is that the pandemic is likely to have a longer term impact,” Niles said. “A lot of people have faced long-term job disruptions and while some may be back to work, that doesn’t mean they aren’t facing financial hardship yet. “

Yet despite the high and sustained levels of food insecurity, fewer respondents reported using federal food assistance programs and pantries in March 2021 compared to the start of the pandemic, or before the pandemic for some programs. . And overall, concerns about higher food prices or the possible loss of food aid programs are diminishing since the start of the pandemic.

“The lower use of food aid programs and pantries may be a good sign, but given that rates of food insecurity remain above pre-pandemic levels, it suggests that some people may be without help, “said Ashley McCarthy, postdoctoral researcher in the department. of nutritional and food sciences. “This is a subject that we will continue to examine, especially as the pandemic persists and new variants emerge. “

The research team, which also includes UVM researchers Farryl Bertmann and Emily Belarmino, continue to monitor the impact of Covid-19 on food access, food security and food systems in Vermont. The work is part of a national collaborative effort to examine these impacts at the local, state, regional and national levels. Led by Niles, the National Food Access and COVID Research Team (NFACT) involves more than 25 institutions with 18 study sites in 15 states.

This research is supported by rapid response funding from the Office of the Vice President of Research at UVM, the Gund Institute for Environment, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and the ARS Center for Food Systems Research.

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