Monday, April 19, 2021
Mathew Swinburne, Using SNAP to Address Food Insecurity During the COVID-19 Pandemic,COVID-19 Policy Playbook: Legal Recommendations for a Safer, More Equitable Future. Boston: Public Health Law Watch
It is estimated that more than 50 million Americans experienced food insecurity in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the U.S. economy. This is a devastating 42% spike in food insecurity from 2019. Recent data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) indicates that 35.2 million Americans experienced food insecurity in 2019. In fact, 2019 represented a 19-year low in the national food insecurity rate. However, the USDA’s 2019 data revealed that the burden of food insecurity continued to be inequitably experienced. White Americans experienced food insecurity at a rate of 7.9%, while the rates for Black Americans and Latino Americans were 19.1% and 15.6%, respectively. Preliminary studies of the 2020 food security crisis indicate that this disturbing inequity continues. Unfortunately, the economic challenges that created this drastic increase in food insecurity will linger for years. Economic projections expect the national economy to return to pre-pandemic levels in 2023. During this period of economic recovery, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will be vital in addressing food insecurity. This Chapter analyzes recent government actions pertaining to SNAP within the context of a prolonged economic recovery. This analysis focuses on government actions pertaining to the value of SNAP benefits and eligibility for SNAP. It also provides recommendations to enhance SNAP’s ability to fight food insecurity during this public health crisis.