Hunger in the United States has dropped to its lowest level of the yearlong pandemic, according to Census Bureau data released on Wednesday. Analysts credited government stimulus checks, increased federal food assistance, and the economic recovery for the sharp improvement.
Households with very low incomes will be eligible for an additional $95 a month or more in emergency allotments of food stamps, said the Biden administration. The additional aid to an estimated 25 million people would amount to $1 billion a month nationwide and ends a dispute over pandemic aid that began in the Trump era.
New USDA data show that SNAP enrollment declined last fall from a pandemic-driven high over the summer. In June 2020, 43 million Americans were enrolled in SNAP; by November, the number had dropped to 41.4 million.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stressed the need for structural changes to U.S. food distribution systems in order to tackle hunger, strengthen equity, and increase access to school meals during his keynote address Wednesday at the National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference, a multi-day event co-sponsored by Feeding America and the Food Research & Action Center, in cooperation with the National CACFP Forum. (No paywall)
The USDA ought to keep President Trump's glitzy food box giveaway program in operation rather than let it die at the end of April, said Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee on Thursday. A food bank leader said that while the food box had been helpful in responding to pandemic-caused hunger, it was not as useful as programs like SNAP.
Although in the latest Pulse survey from the Census Bureau, fewer people said they didn't have enough food to eat in the past week, hardship rates remain very high, said the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities on Wednesday.
The USDA said Tuesday that it will extend a series of waivers to school meal programs through Sept. 30, as the pandemic hits its one-year mark and ongoing school closures continue to exacerbate food insecurity among low-income children. (No paywall)
A three-month extension of higher SNAP benefits and $4 billion in debt relief for minority farmers are in the hands of the Senate following a 219-212 vote by the House over the weekend. "We are one step closer," said President Biden, who used the phrase to describe elements of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, from funds for coronavirus vaccinations and unemployment benefits to "helping millions of Americans feed their families."
The executive order President Joe Biden signed on Tuesday effectively bypasses a major pandemic relief bill that had been stuck in Congress, and represents a significant step in addressing two major crises: unprecedented rates of food insecurity and the nation’s ailing restaurant industry.(No paywall)
Food stamp enrollment has surged by 6 million people since the pandemic hit the United States, said the USDA on Wednesday in its first update of SNAP participation in months. Some 42.9 million people received food stamps at latest count, the highest number since October 2017.