KEY POINTS

  • The hunger rate in the U.S. has dropped to its lowest levels since the pandemic began
  • A new report suggests a flood of stimulus payments helped keep hunger levels down
  • Biden's sweeping plan aims to expand nutrition programs to combat food insecurity

The hunger rate in the United States has dropped to the lowest level reported since the COVID-19 pandemic began last March, according to recent data. 

The percentage of American adults struggling with hunger fell to just over 8% in late April. In March 2021, the U.S. hunger rate was at 11%, a report released by the U.S. Census Bureau this week stated.

Data from the Census Bureau also showed that food insecurity rates began dipping after the government began sending out millions of stimulus payments in mid-March, with hunger rates dropping by nearly 18% in the two weeks that followed. 

The new report also suggests that the two rounds of relief payments sent out in the last six months are helping keep hunger levels down. “I think it shows the wisdom of the rescue plan,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, adding: “This type of support does make a difference. This is a pretty dramatic decrease.”

In a 2020 Household Pulse Survey, the Census Bureau found that roughly 80% of the 73,472 respondents spent their stimulus checks to purchase food.

“Money helps,” Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, an economist, and director of the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University, told Politico. “We’re continuing to see signs of progress. That’s exciting. That’s good news.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Census Bureau has been conducting surveys to track how Americans are faring when it comes to managing issues such as debts, rent payments, and hunger. 

Democrats have been touting the decrease in the U.S. hunger rate to push for President Joe Biden’s recently unveiled $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, which provides $45 billion to expand nutrition programs that assist families and children experiencing food insecurity. Biden's plan is yet to cleared by the House and Senate. 

Roughly $25 billion of the funding would make electronic benefit transfers, or EBT, a permanent program. Under the expanded measure, families of students receiving free and reduced-price meals during the school year would receive money to purchase food during the summer vacation. 

Biden’s sweeping package would also allocate $17 billion in the Community Eligibility Program, or CEP. This program allows high-poverty schools to provide free meals to their students.

US Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff visit a food bank in Washington, DC on November 25, 2020, ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday US Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff visit a food bank in Washington, DC on November 25, 2020, ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday Photo: AFP / SAUL LOEB