More children experienced food insecurity in 2020 than in 2019, the Agriculture Department said in its annual report on hunger in the United States.

But despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the overall rate of food-insecure households in the U.S. — defined as those “that had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all their members because of a lack of resources” — remained at 10.5% of the population in 2020, according to the report by the Economic Research Service.

The rate of food insecurity among children rose to 7.6% in 2020, up from 6.5% in 2019, ERS said. The rate of food insecurity for households with children rose from 13.6% in 2019 to 14.8% in 2020. There were 2.9 million households with children in 2020. 

Food insecurity rates also increased for families with Black and non-Hispanic householders and for households in the South, ERS said.

But the prevalence of food insecurity declined from 2019 to 2020 for a few subgroups, "including women living alone, men living alone, households with White, non-Hispanic reference persons, and households in the Midwest," ERS said.

ERS noted that due to the pandemic there was a substantial increase in federal nutrition assistance, but the report didn't measure the impact of the aid on food security.

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More than half, or 55%, of food-insecure households surveyed said they had participated in at least one of the main federal nutrition assistance programs, including SNAP, the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, and the national school lunch program, the report said.

Participation in the school lunch program dropped from 27.6% in 2019 to 19.5% in 2020.

Having someone employed makes a significant difference in whether a family is struggling to get enough food. During a 30-day period from mid-November to mid-December 2020, households in which the person whose name the residence was in had a food insecurity rate of 8% if that person was unemployed, compared to 4.2% of the person was working.

The survey included 34,330 households as a representative sample of 130 million U.S. households.

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