Brief Food Insecurity Increased for the Second Straight Year in 2023
Households Faced Continued Pressure from High Food Prices and Fewer Supports
Poonam Gupta, Elaine Waxman, Michael Karpman, Baris Tezel, Dulce Gonzalez
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As prices for groceries and other essential household bills have increased and temporary expansions of the safety net have expired, US households have struggled to keep up with the pressures on their food budgets. In this brief, we examine trends in food insecurity and the receipt of charitable food using December 2023 data from the Urban Institute’s Well-Being and Basic Needs Survey (WBNS), a nationally representative annual survey of more than 7,500 adults ages 18 to 64.

We estimate the shares of adults reporting household food insecurity and charitable food receipt in 2023 and compare those to 2019–22 estimates. This assessment is important to measure how food insecurity and coping mechanisms have fluctuated throughout the economic volatility of the last four years. New to our analysis this year is an assessment of food insecurity among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) adults and low-income renters and homeowners.

We find the following:

  • Food insecurity increased for the second straight year in 2023. The decline in food insecurity between 2019 and 2021 in the wake of the robust government and private response to the COVID-19 pandemic was followed by a sharp increase in food insecurity between 2021 and 2022, coinciding with expiring aid and rising inflation. Food hardship continued to rise in 2023, with more than one in four adults (27.0 percent) reporting food insecurity, up from 24.9 percent in 2022. The 2023 rate exceeds the prepandemic level of food insecurity (22.5 percent in 2019).
  • The increase in food insecurity primarily affected lower-income households. The share of adults with family incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level reporting food insecurity increased between 2022 and 2023 (from 46.6 percent to 52.2 percent), while food insecurity was statistically unchanged for adults with higher incomes.
  • Black and Hispanic/Latinx adults reported significantly higher rates of food insecurity in 2023 compared to 2022. Over one in three Black adults (35.1 percent) and nearly two in five Hispanic/Latinx adults (38.7 percent) reported food insecurity in 2023. Food insecurity continued increasing for Black and Hispanic/Latinx adults between 2022 and 2023, even as the rate of food insecurity for other racial and ethnic groups examined in the survey stabilized.
  • Adults were more likely to report food insecurity in 2023 if they lived with children, identified as LGBT, or were low-income adults renting as opposed to owning a home.
  • Use of charitable food in 2023 remained above prepandemic levels and was unchanged from 2022. One in six adults (16.6 percent) reported their households received charitable food in 2023, roughly the same share as in 2022 but higher than the share in 2019 (12.2 percent).
  • Many adults in food-insecure households were unaware of charitable food resources in their communities or were not comfortable receiving charitable food. Among adults whose households were food insecure in 2023 and did not receive charitable food, less than half were aware of local charitable food resources (41.6 percent) or comfortable getting help (37.0 percent).
Research Areas Social safety net
Tags Food insecurity and hunger Hunger and food assistance Emergency food networks LGBTQ+ equity Racial and ethnic disparities
Policy Centers Income and Benefits Policy Center
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