As unemployment remains high amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, more than 1 in 10 Ohioans say their household often did not have enough to eat because of difficulty affording food.
That’s a sharp increase from food-hardship levels before the crisis, hitting families with children and minorities the hardest.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found:
- 847,000 adults in Ohio, or 11%, reported their household sometimes or often didn’t have enough to eat in the last seven days.
- 356,000 adults living with children in Ohio reported the children were not eating enough because they couldn’t afford food. That number is 13% of adults with kids in the house.
“A lot of people are struggling out there. Just because that’s old news doesn’t mean it hasn’t changed the reality for people that are struggling to make ends meet,” said Joseph Llobrera, director of research for food assistance policy for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and one of the report’s authors.
“We as a society and Congress needs to put a comprehensive stimulus package as a high priority even though it may not be the most politically expedient thing to do at this time.”
The report comes as many in Ohio and across the nation struggle with less income because of lost jobs and reduced hours, along with higher food prices. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services reported 17,435 initial applications for unemployment benefits last week, a slight increase from the previous week. About 321,000 Ohioans continued to receive unemployment benefits.
In central Ohio, Mid-Ohio Foodbank CEO Matt Habash said people seeking food assistance continues to grow, with 1 in 4 families getting help for the first time.
“Since the beginning of COVID, the pounds of food we distribute has increased by more than 25% across our 20-county footprint. According to our most recent report, we have measured nearly 600,000 visits to our partner agencies and more than 190,000 unique households… 25% of the families we have served during the pandemic are coming to us for the first time.”
Advocates for the poor say the ongoing economic hardship caused by the pandemic underscores the need for federal lawmakers to renew relief measures.
But, House and Senate leaders remain hundreds of billions of dollars apart on a second coronavirus stimulus package as hopes dim an agreement will be reached before the Nov. 3 election.
“The measures enacted earlier this year – such as expanded unemployment benefits and stimulus payments – mitigated the hardship, but were temporary and had significant shortcomings. Without a new relief package, hardship likely will rise and grow more severe, endangering children’s long-term health and educational outcomes,” researchers said.
Nationwide, about 23 million adults, or 1 in 10, reported not having enough to eat in the last seven days with 80% saying they didn’t have enough money for food, according to the report. Blacks and Latinos were more than twice as likely to experience food insufficiency.
Adults in households with children also were more likely to report not having enough to eat at 14% compared, to 8% for those without children.
National data was based on the most recent U.S. Census survey conducted in mid-September. State-level data was the average of data from September and another survey done in late August.
Llobrera said the Census changed its survey this summer making comparisons to earlier ones difficult, however, “we have data collected in 2019,” he said, “and that shows rate of food hardship is several times higher than it was before the pandemic.”
Researchers also highlighted census data which showed millions of Americans were behind on rent. Overall, 1 in 6 renters, or 17%, reported they lived in a household behind on rent.
Again, families with children and minorities were more likely to face difficulties. The rate for families with children was 25% and double the rate of adults not living with anyone under age 18. And, 1 in 4 Blacks and Asian renters and 1 in 5 Latino renters reported being behind in rent compared to 1 in 9 white renters. State-level data was not available.
“Our reality has shifted in a lot of ways and people are very resilient whatever situation they are in, but a lot of people out there, millions of people, families and kids are really worried about keeping a roof over their heads and food on the table,” Llobrera said.
For kids, ”not having enough to eat now, that’s going to have significant impacts on their physical and mental development and we’ll pay the cost for that down the line with lower completion rates in schools and lower earning potential as adults.”