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Rising food costs leave hungry Americans $33 billion behind, report says

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LA Post: Rising food costs leave hungry Americans $33 billion behind, report says
May 15, 2024
Leah Douglas - Reuters

By Leah Douglas

(Reuters) - Hungry people in the U.S. faced a $33.1 billion shortfall in funds for basic food needs in 2022, but nearly half of them will not qualify for aid, according to a report by national anti-hunger group Feeding America.

The shortfall is the highest in 20 years when adjusted for inflation and was driven in part by higher food prices, said the report, which analyzed the most recently available data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Census Bureau, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

WHY IT'S IMPORTANT

Hunger rose in 2022 in the U.S. amid high food price inflation and as economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic flagged among low-income Americans.

Seventeen million households struggled to get enough food in 2022, up from 13.5 million households in 2021, the USDA reported last year.

During the pandemic, federal financial support and expanded food aid programs kept hunger rates steady, but the end of those programs has contributed to rising hunger.

CONTEXT

There are food-insecure people in every county and state in the U.S., and about 90% of counties with high food insecurity are rural, according to the Feeding America report.

Nearly half of food-insecure people may not qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the nation's largest food aid program, because their incomes are too high, the report said.

KEY QUOTE

"Elevated food prices and the hard choice between other household expenses like electricity, childcare or medical bills is making hunger in America worse," Linda Nageotte, Feeding America president and chief operating officer, said in a statement.

WHAT'S WASHINGTON DOING?

Congress earlier this year expanded funding for a key nutrition program serving mothers and young children after anti-hunger groups and the White House warned that millions of eligible families were at risk of being turned away.

A group of 40 House and Senate lawmakers on Monday sent a letter to the Biden administration urging executive antitrust action to curb food company profits and lower prices.

(Reporting by Leah Douglas; Editing by William Maclean)

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