Economic impacts on consumer food insecurity

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The ability for a household to adequately put food on the table is impacted by many factors, specifically economic resources, says U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service “Prevalence of U.S. Food Insecurity Is Related to Changes in Unemployment, Inflation, and the Price of Food” study.

While factors such as education levels and income has been measured in previous research, the impacts of food prices and inflation on a national level on food insecurity were main focus points.

“We first examine the extent to which year-to-year differences in the prevalence of food insecurity are associated with differences in national-level economic conditions. We then examine the joint effects of household-level and national economic conditions to ascertain the degree to which national economic conditions alone (as opposed to these conditions in combination with household-level factors) explain year-to-year changes in the prevalence of food insecurity,” say the authors of the study. “We investigate why the prevalence of food insecurity has remained at a higher level during the years immediately following the 2007-08 recession than during the years immediately preceding it.”

These three measurements accounted for 92 percent of the variation in food insecurity factors at a national level from 2001-2012. Researchers found that a one percent increase in unemployment rate was correlated to an increase of food insecurity by .5 percent.  The increase of annual inflation by one percent also resulted in another .5 percent increase in the prevalence of food insecurity. When relative price of food was increased one percent, food insecurity measured even higher at .6 percent.

“This study has potential implications for SNAP (USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps). The associations of food insecurity with inflation and the relative price of food suggest that timely and adequate adjustment of SNAP benefits for increases in food prices may be important for food security,” concludes researchers.



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