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Researchers identify the most vulnerable groups t

image: This visual represents the weighted percentage of food insecurity by age group, race/ethnicity and gender. Non-Hispanic black men between the ages of 25 and 39 had the highest rate of food insecurity among all groups. The non-Hispanic black population also had the highest percentage of missing data for the food insecurity questions, suggesting that food insecurity may be underestimated in this group.
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Credit: Zhongqi Fan, Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy

Rockville, Maryland (June 14, 2022) – As the COVID-19 pandemic has led to stay-at-home orders and increased economic hardship, food insecurity in the United States has increased dramatically. A new study shows that some groups experienced more food insecurity during the pandemic than others.

The researchers found that young non-Hispanic black men, middle-aged black women, and households with more children were the groups most likely to experience food insecurity. Additionally, lower education and income as well as job loss were associated with increased food insecurity for all racial, gender, and age groups studied.

“Our results demonstrate that disproportionate food insecurity existed during the COVID-19 pandemic and was likely exacerbated by multiple risk factors,” said Zhongqi Fan, a graduate student at Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and lead author of the study. “It also illustrates the continuing need for tailored food security initiatives to help these vulnerable populations before, during and after a health crisis.”

Fan will present the results online at NUTRITION 2022 LIVE ONLINEthe American Society for Nutrition’s flagship annual meeting held June 14-16.

For the study, investigators looked at publicly available data from 884,695 people who participated in the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey between January 6 and July 5, 2021. The survey asked Householders selected a statement that best described their weekly food intake and assessed a variety of socioeconomic factors.

Researchers considered a person to be food insecure if “sometimes not enough to eat” or “often not enough to eat” was selected in the survey. They then estimated the national level of food insecurity and compared differences in food security between sociodemographic and socioeconomic subgroups.

The analysis identified several groups most vulnerable to food insecurity. For example, nearly 25% of non-Hispanic black male participants in the study aged 25-39 experienced food insecurity, as did just under 23% of non-Hispanic black female participants aged 40-54. Although researchers expected to see food insecurity decline after the 2020 COVID-19 economic stimulus package took effect, analysis showed that food insecurity remained high among households across the country. .

The researchers also found the highest rates of non-response to survey questions about food insecurity among the most vulnerable subpopulations, particularly less-educated non-Hispanic black people who recently found themselves unemployed. This could indicate that the food insecurity of these groups is underestimated.

“High nonresponse rates among hard-to-reach populations demonstrate the complexity of conducting truly representative surveillance using national survey strategies during public health emergencies,” Fan said. “These challenges must be taken into account to improve representative sampling techniques and to account for data limitations in statistical analyzes performed by data analysts.”

Researchers are now working to expand the study to include April 2020 to March 2022 to better understand how prolonged burdens of COVID-19 influenced drivers of food insecurity over time. “We plan to examine trends in the prevalence of food insecurity, the risk factors that most influence insecurity over time, and the effects of stimulus packages and health policies such as mass testing. and vaccination,” Fan said.

The researchers also plan to explore differences in food insecurity by geographic location to understand how federal health resources might be better mobilized in places facing persistent or emerging food insecurity.

This research was conducted under the supervision of Elena N. Naumova, PhD, Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy; Kimberly Nguyen, DrPH, Tufts University School of Medicine and Naglaa El-Abbadi, PhD, Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging.

Fan will present this on-demand research beginning at noon on Tuesday, June 14, during the NUTRITION 2022 LIVE ONLINE Session Current Issues in Nutrition Insecurity (abstract; presentation details).

Picture available.

Please note that abstracts presented at NUTRITION 2022 LIVE ONLINE have been assessed and selected by an expert committee but have generally not undergone the same peer review process required for publication in a scientific journal. As such, the results presented should be considered preliminary until a peer-reviewed publication becomes available.


NUTRITION 2022 LIVE ONLINE is part of a new year-round experience with ASN’s flagship annual meeting to be held virtually June 14-16, 2022, as well as learning and networking opportunities to be offered throughout year round. The Annual Online Meeting is a dynamic virtual event showcasing new research findings and timely discussions on food and nutrition. Scientific symposia explore hot topics including clinical and translational nutrition, food science and systems, global and public health, population science, and cellular and physiological nutrition and metabolism. #NutritionLiveOnline

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