Hunger Report 2023: Food Insecurity in the Washington Region Remains Staggeringly High Over the Last Year Amid Inflation, End of Pandemic Aid - Capital Area Food Bank
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Hunger Report 2023: Food Insecurity in the Washington Region Remains Staggeringly High Over the Last Year Amid Inflation, End of Pandemic Aid

By cafb September 12, 2023

Capital Area Food Bank’s Latest Hunger Report Contains Surprising New Data Showing Prevalence of Hunger is Virtually Unchanged Across the Region 

Report details findings of new nearly 5,300-person general population survey conducted in partnership with one of the largest independent social research organizations in the United States 

Washington, DC, September 12, 2023A report issued today by the Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB) reveals surprising new numbers about the persistent and staggering scale of food insecurity and inequity across the greater Washington area.  

At a time when the coronavirus pandemic was coming to an end and the overall economic picture was appearing to improve, one in three residents – 32% – did not know where their next meal was coming from at some point between May 2022 and April 2023, according to the Capital Area Food Bank’s new Hunger Report. That’s essentially unchanged from the 33% of respondents who reported experiencing food insecurity in the food bank’s 2022 survey. The latest findings mean there were still over 1.2 million of our neighbors struggling to access enough food to eat.   

“While signs of improvement seem to be everywhere in our economy over the past twelve months, there’s a far different story unfolding for over a million of our neighbors,” said Radha Muthiah, president and CEO of the Capital Area Food Bank. “This year’s Hunger Report makes clear that food insecurity and economic inequity are still enormous problems in our area. Every sector in our region has a role to play in addressing this ongoing crisis, both in the short and longer term, to create more opportunity and brighter futures for our community.”

Hunger Report 2023 provides a detailed look at who is experiencing food insecurity in the Greater Washington region, how an uneven economic recovery has affected food access, and recommendations that every sector can take to address these challenges in both the short and longer term. It’s the fourth such study issued by the CAFB, and for the second year, the data informing the report was gathered by partnering with highly trusted independent social research organization NORC at the University of Chicago. 

The resulting general population survey of nearly 5,300 residents shows how those who were hardest hit by the impacts of COVID-19 have continued to be weighed down by often compounding forces: a slow economic recovery; near-record levels of inflation; and the end of enhanced federal benefit programs that had been keeping thousands of families and individuals afloat financially. 

Data Highlights: 

The survey data highlights the pronounced impacts of the pandemic on the prevalence of food security in the region, as well as the significant disparities that exist in who it impacts. 

Food Insecurity is still widespread. 

  • 32% of people across greater Washington didn’t always know where their next meal would come from 
  • Nearly half – 45% – of the residents of Prince George’s County, MD faced food insecurity 
  • Even in Arlington, VA, the county with the lowest rate, one in six – 17% – of residents were affected 
  • Even among households making $120,000 – the median for the region – food insecurity is affecting 1 in 5 families, reflecting the challenges experienced by families facing high costs of living. 

Inflation and the rollback of expanded SNAP assistance had a significant negative effect on food-insecure residents 

  • 75% of SNAP recipients reported a major impact on their finances due to the reductions to their benefits. 
  • Eight in 10 food-insecure respondents said rising prices on groceries had a major effect on their finances, compared to four in 10 food-secure respondents. 

Economic recovery for those hit hardest financially by the pandemic is lagging well behind those who were less impacted, widening preexisting inequities. 

  • Of those who reported that their financial situation was made worse by the pandemic (49% overall), only 12% say their household has recovered financially. Among food insecure respondents, only 3% report having recovered financially, and the majority (68%) say recovery is more than a year off.    
  • While the majority of food-insecure individuals are working, most workers showed signs of underemployment and a desire for greater upward mobility. 

Food insecurity rates are disproportionately higher in households of color and households with children. 

  • Approximately half of Black and Hispanic respondents screened as food insecure, compared to only 14% of white respondents. 
  • Households with children are more likely to experience food insecurity: Households with kids are 60% more likely to be affected by food insecurity than households without kids.  
  • For many food-insecure households with children, the adults screened as food insecure but the children themselves did not, suggesting adults are prioritizing feeding the children first and – at least some of the time – sacrificing their own food to do so.   

Residents facing hunger and food insecurity are more likely to face diet-related illnesses 

  • Nearly half of the region’s food-insecure population is experiencing at least one diet-related health condition – diabetes, high blood pressure or hypertension, or obesity. 
  • Food-insecure individuals are twice as likely to have chronic health conditions that limit their daily activities compared to food-secure people (29% vs. 13%). 

Key Recommendations 

Hunger Report 2023 also makes a series of recommendations on both short- and long-term approaches to enable a more equitable economy and pathways to opportunity, including strategies for: 

  • Increasing the accessibility of the emergency food assistance network;   
  • Ensuring the continued impact of highly effective government programs; 
  • Accelerating “Food Is Medicine” interventions; and 
  • And enabling integrated approaches to addressing poverty. 

About the Capital Area Food Bank 

The Capital Area Food Bank works to address hunger today and create brighter futures tomorrow people across the region experiencing food insecurity. As the anchor in the area’s hunger relief infrastructure, the food bank will provide 50+ 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)