1 in 5 adults is worried about having enough food

hungry man and child
Photo credit Getty Images

While some of us might be overindulging this Thanksgiving, other Americans are struggling to put food on the table.

A new report finds one in five adults reported household food insecurity in 2022. It's a dramatic shift from just one year ago, when the White House put that figure at one in 10.

According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the term food insecurity means being unable to acquire adequate food for one or more family members.

High food price inflation, along with elevated costs for other basic needs, such as transportation and rent, have likely eroded food budgets in the last year, the foundation explained. Moreover, states and the federal government offered additional supports to families during the COVID-19 public health emergency, including universal free school meals and enhanced nutrition benefits. But many of these programs expired this year, and with rising consumer prices, many families have less money to spend on food.

"Families' ability to consistently afford a nutritiously adequate diet eroded considerably between 2021 and 2022," according to the report. "Policymakers need to closely monitor challenges that families may be facing and assess tools that may be available to help buffer food hardship."

Food insecurity is typically more prevalent in households with children compared with all households. The report shows nearly one in four (23.9%) adults who are parents or guardians of children under 19 living with them reported that their household was food insecure.

The report also shows food insecurity is more likely among communities of color. Food insecurity rates among Black and Hispanic adults (29.2% and 32.3%) were measurably higher than among their White counterparts (17.3%).

Grocery bills keep getting bigger and bigger -- even when shoppers are buying less. According to the latest consumer price index from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which measures price changes at the grocery store, the food-at-home index increased more than 12% for the year since October.

Cereals and bakery products saw the biggest hike of 15.9% over the year, followed by dairy and related products which increased by 15.5%. The remaining major grocery store food groups posted increases ranging from 8% (meats, poultry, fish, and eggs) to 15.4% (other food at home).

As Americans face higher costs for groceries, food banks and pantries have seen an increase in people relying on them to make ends meet. Katie Fitzgerald, president, and COO of Feeding America, is encouraging people to donate to their local food banks to help meet these needs.

"Higher food prices have shocked the budgets of families, seniors and people already struggling to make ends meet. The impact of these higher prices is especially felt with the holidays right around the corner," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "High prices will continue to drive more and more of our neighbors to food banks and food pantries as we enter the winter season."

According to Feeding America, nearly 34 million people -- including more than 9 million children -- are food insecure, and one out of six people turned to the charitable food sector for help in 2021.

"We need everyone to be a part of overcoming these challenges; the government, private sector, food donors and folks who can contribute and raise awareness about this solvable but difficult problem," Fitzgerald said.

People can also help fight hunger this holiday season in other ways, such as volunteering or making a donation. Contact your local food bank to see how you can help during the holidays and beyond.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Getty Images