More food insecurity as a result of coronavirus pandemic

Spanning locally from April through July

OW Staff Writer | 9/25/2020, midnight

More than 1-in-4 Los Angeles County households experienced at least one instance of food insecurity from April to July during the coronavirus pandemic, overwhelmingly affecting women, low-income and unemployed residents, and Latinos, according to researchers at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

Higher income groups that don’t typically struggle to afford food were also affected, according to a USC statement, which reported that though levels of food insecurity in the county peaked in April, during the early days of the pandemic, it remains significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels.

“For the first time, we’re getting a comprehensive look at how the pandemic has impacted the ability of Los Angeles County residents to afford food,’’ said Kayla de la Haye, the lead researcher and assistant professor of preventive medicine at Keck School of Medicine of USC. “The spread of COVID-19 has worsened the already high levels of food insecurity among low-income households and marginalized groups and has even impacted demographic groups that are historically less likely to ever experience it.’’

The study is one of the first to measure food insecurity in a major U.S. city since the start of the pandemic. Food insecurity is a disruption in the ability to get food or to regularly eat because of limited money or other resources. Studies show that children who experience food insecurity have poorer nutrition, worse general health and oral health, and a higher risk for cognitive problems, anxiety, and depression. Adults have a higher risk for obesity, diabetes, and hypertension, and greater mental health and sleep problems.

During the first full months of the pandemic, April through July, 42 percent of low-income households and 26 percent of all L.A. County households experienced at least one instance of food insecurity. By comparison, during all 12 months of 2018, 27 percent  of low-income households struggled with food insecurity.

The highest rate of food insecurity was in April, coinciding with L.A. County’s peak in unemployment, when nearly 40 percent of low-income households and a quarter of all Los Angeles households struggled at some point to afford food. 

 By July, food insecurity rates had dropped to 14 percent of low-income households—still nearly triple the likely rate of July 2018 and 10 percent of all L.A. County households.