Barriers and facilitators to achieving food security during the COVID-19 pandemic

Prev Med Rep. 2021 Jul 17;23:101500. doi: 10.1016/j.pmedr.2021.101500. eCollection 2021 Sep.


The COVID-19 pandemic has considerably increased food insecurity. To identify where intervention and policy solutions are most needed, we explored barriers to obtaining food and predictors of experiencing food insecurity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Between May and July 2020, we conducted cross-sectional online surveys with two convenience samples of U.S. adults (Study 1: n = 2,219, Study 2: n = 810). Roughly one-third of participants reported experiencing food insecurity due to the COVID-19 pandemic (Study 1: 32%, Study 2: 35%). Between one-third and half reported using the charitable food system (Study 1: 36%, Study 2: 46%). The majority of participants experienced barriers to getting food (Study 1: 84%, Study 2: 88%), of which the most commonly reported were not having enough money to buy food (Study 1: 48%; Study 2: 53%) and worrying about getting COVID-19 at the store (Study 1: 50%; Study 2: 43%). Higher education was associated with greater risk of food insecurity in both studies (all p < 0.05). Receipt of aid from SNAP buffered against the association between financial struggles and food insecurity in Study 1 (p = 0.03); there was also some evidence of this effect in Study 2 (p = 0.05). Our findings suggest that food insecurity might be reduced by mitigating financial struggles (e.g., by increasing access to SNAP) and by addressing barriers to obtaining food (e.g., by expanding accessibility of food delivery programs).

Keywords: COVID-19; Federal Nutrition Assistance; Food Insecurity; Health Policy.