COVID-19 Has Taken a Dramatic Toll on the Food Security of Children and Latino Families - Capital Area Food Bank
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COVID-19 Has Taken a Dramatic Toll on the Food Security of Children and Latino Families

By cafb June 17, 2021

Capital Area Food Bank’s Hunger Report 2021 Reveals Huge Spike in Percentage of Children and Latino Households Among the Newly Food Insecure.

Report details findings of new 2,000-person survey of people facing hunger during Covid-19 in Greater Washington Area

Washington, DC, June 17, 2021 – A new report issued by the Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB) reveals dramatic changes in the face of hunger in the Washington region, including large spikes in the percentages of children and Latino households among those who are newly food insecure.

The CAFB today issued its Hunger Report 2021, which includes data from a new survey of 2,000 individuals served by the food bank during COVID-19. Among the findings: households seeking food assistance for the first time were 60% more likely to include children than before the pandemic, and over 50% of newly food insecure individuals identified as Latino. The report is the only holistic exploration of food insecurity and other indicators of economic inequity of its kinds in the greater Washington region.

“Hunger has ripped through our communities during the pandemic like no time in recent history, and the impacts are profound,” said Radha Muthiah, President and CEO of the Capital Area Food Bank. “The new trends that we’re seeing in who’s experiencing food insecurity threaten to deepen some our region’s worst inequities. The effects on children, in particular, can have impacts that last for generations.  We have a unique window right now to rebuild from COVID-19 in ways that prevent those outcomes and create greater food security and economic prosperity for our neighbors. It’s imperative that all of us, across every sector, take the opportunity before us at this moment.”

Key Information About the CAFB’s Hunger Report 2021

The food first bank’s first Hunger Report, released in 2020, sounded the alarm on a growing hunger crisis in our region, with some areas seeing possible food insecurity rates increase by as much 50% or more. Hunger Report 2021 looks at the faces behind those numbers and contains essential insights – gathered from a recent survey of nearly 2,000 people – about the impact of the pandemic on people facing food insecurity in greater Washington. The report also draws from a wide body of research, distilling region-specific data into a single, comprehensive look at food insecurity and its driving causes in our area, and leverages the food bank’s data visualization and mapping capacity, through the use of ArcGIS mapping technology.

Key report segments and data include:

Ground-Level Insights About Food InsecurityCompared with survey respondents who were attending free food distributions before the pandemic, those who started going to free food distributions for the first time after March 2020 were:

  • More likely to be Hispanic. The Hispanic population represents over half of newly food insecure respondents, compared to just 16% of respondents who were food insecure before the pandemic.
  • More likely to have children in the household. Newly food insecure respondents are 60% more likely to reside in households with children, meaning that more kids are being affected by the potentially lifelong impacts of hunger.
  • More likely to have a job. Those who are newly food insecure are 69% more likely to be working.
  • Less likely to speak English. Newly food insecure respondents are over two times less likely to speak English as their primary language at home.
  • Far less likely to be receiving government benefits. Newly food insecure individuals are three times as likely to be receiving no government benefits.

Barriers to Food Security: Hunger Report 2021 explores the main barriers that those who are experiencing hunger and food insecurity face. When asked about greatest barriers to reliably being able to afford sufficient food, 39% cited the ability to earn a living wage, and 29% of respondents said the cost of housing was the greatest barrier to food security. The most severely food insecure respondents are also those with the lowest levels of awareness and utilization of community resources. Only a quarter are receiving SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), and only a quarter know of more than one location to access free food (despite hundreds available in the region).

Building Greater Food Security and Economic Opportunity for our Neighbors: Hunger Report 2021 also makes several recommendations for ways in which each sector across the Washington region can contribute to a pandemic recovery that creates greater economic stability, food security, and opportunity for more people.  In the public sector, this includes closing the gaps between eligible and enrolled populations for key government programs like SNAP. The private sector can provide more on-ramps for entering the workforce through education and skill development, offering greater benefits and flexibility for employees, and cultivating talent to foster upward mobility. And the social sector must integrate disparate services into a seamless network of support, reducing the burdens of navigating the social services landscape for those in need.   

The release of the report, funded through support from Bank of America and The Northstar Foundation, comes as the need for emergency food assistance in the region remains at record levels. Prior to the pandemic, the food bank was providing over 30 million meals each year through a network of 450+ nonprofit partners.  In the past year, it has distributed 75 million meals as many members of its network have reported between 30 and 400% increases in the numbers of people coming through their doors.

About the Capital Area Food Bank

The Capital Area Food Bank works to address hunger today and create brighter futures tomorrow for nearly 600,000 people across the region experiencing food insecurity. As the anchor in the area’s hunger relief infrastructure, the food bank will provide 60+ million meals to people in need this year by supplying food to hundreds of nonprofit organizations, including Martha’s Table, SOME – So Others Might Eat, DC Central Kitchen, Food for Others, Manna, and others. To learn more, visit or call (202.644.9864).