A recent study published in The Journal of Nutrition reported that, apart from Mexico, few changes in food insecurity were observed from before to during the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting that income support and other program responses to the pandemic may have mitigated vulnerability to food insecurity.

Food insecurity is a serious public health problem and has the greatest impact on those who are the most socially and economically disadvantaged. Studies suggest that the prevalence of food insecurity in numerous countries may have increased during the early stages of the pandemic. However, differences in measures used to assess the prevalence and severity of food insecurity before and during the COVID-19 pandemic complicate comparisons across time points. To bridge this knowledge gap, Pepetone (University of Waterloo) and colleagues examined changes in the prevalence and severity of food insecurity among adults (18 – 100 years of age) and youth (10 – 17 years of age) in multiple countries using consistent measures of food insecurity before to during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Repeated cross-sectional data were collected in 6 countries (Australia, Canada, Chile [youth only], Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States) in November to December 2019 and 2020. These countries were selected because of similarities in culture, official languages, and food environments. Through an online survey, the 18-item Household Food Security Survey Module, routinely used in research and surveillance, was used to assess household food security status among adults. The youth survey included the recently developed 10-item Child Food Insecurity Experiences Scale.

Study results found evidence of increasing likelihood and severity (adults) or numbers of experiences (youth) of food insecurity from 2019 to 2020 in Mexico. The proportions of youth reporting many experiences of food insecurity also increased in Australia and the United States from 2019 to 2020. However, among adults and youth in the remaining countries, the likelihood of food insecurity was either lower or unchanged from 2019 to 2020 with assessment of severity suggesting improvements or no changes. These results are largely attributed to interventions implemented by many countries during the COVID-19 pandemic to make food more available and affordable.

In a companion commentary, Gundersen (Baylor University) further elaborates on the impact of charitable food assistance, government assistance, and the resiliency of agricultural supply chains on food insecurity rates. 


Pepetone A, Frongillo EA, Dodd KW, Wallace MP, Hammond D, Kirkpatrick SI. Prevalence and Severity of Food Insecurity Before and During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic Among Adults and Youth in Australia Canada, Chile, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 153, Issue 4, April 2023, Pages 1231-1243, doi.org/10.1016/j.tjnut.2022.12.031.

Gundersen C. Lessons Learned from the Lack of Increase in Food Insecurity during COVID-19. The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 153, Issue 4, April 2023, Pages 920-921, doi.org/10.1016/j.tjnut.2023.02.020.

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