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Food Insecurity and COVID-19: What Public Health Professionals Should Know

Learn about the connection between COVID-19 and food insecurity.

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Food security, which is defined as reliable access to affordable and nutritious food, has been a persistent issue on the global scale. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the reports of food insecurity experienced around the world, as unemployment rates rise and food supply chains are disrupted. So, what should you know as a public health professional—or an aspiring public or community health worker—about the connection between COVID-19 and food insecurity? We go over some key findings below.

It is estimated that the COVID-19 pandemic may push the number of people facing acute food insecurity to 265 million people .1

According to the United Nations World Food Programme, 135 million people were food insecure in 2019. Due to the economic impact of the coronavirus, this number is projected to nearly double by the end of 2020, rising by 130 million. The 265 million people who may face food insecurity are in low- and middle-income countries, such as Venezuela, Mexico, and South Sudan.

Women are expected to be disproportionately affected.2

There are measurable gender gaps when it comes to food security, and these gaps have only widened due to the impact of COVID-19. Financial self-sufficiency is key to safeguarding against food insecurity, but unfortunately, many women lack this autonomy. For instance, in the majority of surveyed countries, women were found to have less access to critical financial resources, such as savings or income that could be used without permission. Additionally, unpaid work was likelier to increase for women due to discriminatory gender norms that force women to spend more time doing domestic work and caretaking.

The predominant risks to food security are at the country level.3

At the global level, food prices have remained relatively stable during the coronavirus pandemic. However, COVID-19 has severely impacted food security at the country level, disrupting domestic food supply chains and production. As a result, food price inflation is being seen at the retail level. And when coupled with increased income and employment disruptions, higher retail prices make it exceedingly difficult for households to purchase enough food—particularly food that offers nutritional value. Though long-term outcomes are not yet known for the effects COVID-19 will have on the supply and demand of food, there’s no denying the lasting impacts food insecurity can have on the health of individuals and families.

Racial and ethnic disparities in food insecurity continue.4

According to research conducted by the Urban Institute on how the coronavirus pandemic has affected food insecurity for families in the U.S., racial and ethnic disparities persist. The Coronavirus Tracking Survey found food insecurity rates were 27.1% for Hispanic adults’ households and 27% for black adults’ households. This rate is double that of white adults’ households, which have a food insecurity rate of 13.5%. Additionally, findings revealed that 25.5% of adults in families with non-citizens experienced food insecurity at the time of the survey, compared to 16.8% of adults whose family members were all U.S. citizens.

Food insecurity is reaching record levels in the U.S.5

Across the U.S., food insecurity continues to rise. In fact, according to Emily Engelhard, managing director of research at Feeding America, “We have not seen food insecurity reach these levels for the length of time that food insecurity has been measured.” The states with the highest rates of reported food insecurity are the same ones that had the highest rates prior to the pandemic, including Alabama, Louisiana, and Arkansas. However, states that economically depend on tourism—such as Nevada and Hawaii—have also experienced some of the largest increases in food insecurity, primarily due to COVID-19 travel bans.

Prepare to Take on the Challenges Faced by Public Health Professionals

In Walden University’s Master of Public Health (MPH) degree program, you can explore a curriculum featuring case studies on the latest public health issues in a cutting-edge online environment. Whether you want to conduct research, design and implement health programs, develop public health policy, or administer public health services, Walden’s MPH program can give you the expertise you need to advance your career. And at Walden—an accredited university—it’s more convenient than ever to earn your public health degree. That’s because with online education, there’s no need to completely rearrange your schedule or commute to campus—you can take classes at whatever time of day works best for you as you work toward your master’s and position yourself to make a difference in public and global health.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering a suite of public health degree programs online, including a Master of Public Health. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible online platform that fits your busy life.


1Source: www.wfp.org/news/covid-19-will-double-number-people-facing-food-crises-unless-swift-action-taken#:~:text=The%20number%20of%20people%20facing,according%20to%20a%20WFP%20projection
2Source: https://news.gallup.com/opinion/gallup/309503/food-insecurity-risks-greater-women-covid-crisis.aspx.fao.org/3/ca9692en/online/ca9692en.html#chapter-Key_message
3Source: www.worldbank.org/en/topic/agriculture/brief/food-security-and-covid-19#:~:text=The%20primary%20risks%20to%20food,security%20risks%20in%20many%20countries
4Source: www.urban.org/research/publication/more-one-six-adults-were-food-insecure-two-months-covid-19-recession
5Source: www.marketplace.org/2020/05/22/record-levels-of-food-insecurity-in-the-u-s-because-of-covid-19

The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) Board of Councilors acted at its September 6, 2019, meeting to accredit the Master of Public Health (MPH) program at Walden University for a five-year term, based on an application for accreditation submitted on February 3, 2018. On June 5, 2020, the CEPH Board of Councilors accredited the Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) program at Walden University, after reviewing an accreditation application submitted on April 21, 2020. Based on CEPH procedures and the documentation submitted, the effective accreditation date of both of these programs is February 3, 2018. CEPH is an independent agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit schools of public health and programs of public health. CEPH accreditation provides assurance that the program has been evaluated and met accepted public health profession standards in practice, research, and service. For a copy of the final self-study document and/or final accreditation report, please contact the dean of the School of Health Sciences ([email protected]).

Note on certification: The National Board of Public Health Examiners (NBPHE) offers the Certified in Public Health (CPH) credential as a voluntary core credential for public health professionals. Individuals who have a bachelor’s degree and at least five subsequent years of public health work experience will be eligible to take the CPH exam. However, for individuals without these qualifications, a candidate must be a graduate of a school or program of public health accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH). Walden’s MPH program’s initial CEPH accreditation date was recorded as February 3, 2018.

Students should evaluate all requirements related to national credentialing agencies and exams for the state in which he or she intends to practice. Walden makes no representations or guarantee that completion of Walden coursework or programs will permit an individual to obtain national certification. For more information about the CPH credential, students should visit www.nbphe.org.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.

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