There has been a 25% increase in food insufficiency among Americans during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

In the study, food insufficiency was defined by the researchers as being when a household does not have enough food to eat. When analyzing data from 63,674 adults living in the United States, the researchers found that Black and Latino Americans had more than twice the risk of food insufficiency compared with the rate of food insufficiency among White Americans.

"People of color are disproportionately affected by both food insufficiency and COVID-19," said study lead author Jason Nagata, MD, MSc, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, in a press release. "Many of these individuals have experienced job loss and higher rates of poverty during the pandemic."

Of the group of adults assessed in the study, 65% reported symptoms of anxiety and 52% reported symptoms of depression in the week before. Notably, participants who did not have enough to eat reported the highest rate of anxiety or depression symptoms.

Among those experiencing food insufficiency, 89% reported anxiety symptoms, whereas 63% of those who were food-sufficient reported anxiety symptoms. Similar rates occurred among reports of depression, with 83% of food-insufficient Americans and 49% of food-sufficient Americans reporting such symptoms.

"Hunger, exhaustion, and worrying about not getting enough food to eat may worsen depression and anxiety symptoms," Nagata said in the press release.

Additionally, the researchers observed in the reports that those people who were experiencing food insufficiency experienced improvement in some of their mental health symptoms upon the receipt of free groceries or meals.

"Policymakers should expand benefits and eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and other programs to address both food insecurity and mental health," said study co-author Kyle Ganson, PhD, MSW, assistant professor at the University of Toronto, in the press release.

REFERENCE
Food insufficiency linked to depression, anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic. Toronto, CA: University of Toronto; January 12, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-01/uot-fil011121.php. Accessed January 19, 2021.