Urban Wire Inflation Could Drive More Families toward Food Insecurity This Summer
Kassandra Martinchek
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A family gathered around a dinner table.

Each summer, families with children struggle to meet their food needs as there are limited summer food offerings for school-age children. This summer, establishing food security likely will be harder, as high inflation increases the cost of foods like meats, fresh produce, and dairy and heightens trade-offs families make between food and other rising costs. For families experiencing food insecurity, inflation can increase food insecurity and limit the adequacy of current Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

Food insecurity is a household measure that reflects limited or uncertain access to adequate food. In a recent report examining food needs and resources in Arlington County, Virginia, we found that households experiencing food insecurity face challenges paying expenses, and food budgets are often cut first in times of financial hardship as they trade off between food, rent, and utilities.

Some Arlington County families struggled to meet their food needs in late 2021 as inflation began to rise, opting to reduce the nutritional quality of the food they eat, reducing their food intake overall, or opting for lower-cost alternatives, all of which points to deepening food insecurity. Without additional support, families may become less food secure as inflationary pressures limit their ability to fully meet their food needs.

“Sometimes, there is not much money. Like meat—you know today how much it has gone up in price. That’s why sometimes we don’t buy meat, [instead] we make vegetable soup.”

—Arlington County, Virginia, mother of two, late 2021

How can policymakers support residents experiencing food insecurity this summer?

Arlington County and other federal, state, and local governments have demonstrated a commitment to help residents avoid food insecurity. Governments at various levels can better support food-insecure residents this summer through the following policy actions.

“Things are a lot more expensive. I have been cutting down on the kinds of food I buy and sometimes the amount. Things are much better now, but I’ve had a few months where I just didn’t have money to go shopping.”

–Arlington County, Virginia, resident living alone, late 2021

Although the solutions above can help support families this summer, policymakers can also enact policies that buffer against inflation and improve food security in the long term. Addressing chronic disinvestment in communities, piloting guaranteed income programs, removing barriers for communities of color to opportunities, improving job quality, streamlining and connecting public benefits, and ensuring housing affordability can help families get the boost they need to become food secure this summer and beyond.

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Research Areas Families
Tags Assistance for women and children Children's health and development Emergency food networks Federal housing programs and policies Food insecurity and hunger Hunger and food assistance State and local tax issues Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Policy Centers Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population
States Virginia
Counties Arlington County
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