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10.5% of U.S. households faced food insecurity in 2020. Unchanged from 2019.

Source: BRINK

The Pandemic Didn’t Lead to an Increase of Food-Insecure Households In the U.S.

Despite a global pandemic, the amount of U.S. households facing food insecurity was stable throughout 2020. A recent report (pdf) by the USDA found that 89.5% of American households were food-secure last year, unchanged from 2019. 

Among the 10.5% of households that did face food insecurity, 5.1 million households (3.9% of the toal) faced very low food security — where members “experienced reduced food intake and disrupted eating patterns at times during the year because of limited money and other resources for obtaining food.” Households with children faced a disproportionate amount of food insecurity when compared to 2019, however. About 7.5% of U.S. households with children faced food hardships in 2020 — up from 6.5% in 2019.

The fact that the food-insecure population held steady during a global pandemic shows the impact of U.S. social safety nets, which helped vulnerable populations weather the storm, as well as private relief efforts like charitable food donations.

 

U.S. Household Consumption Sees Dip in 2020, Still Outpaces Europe

The United States leads the world in consumption per capita, according to a recent article by Bloomberg opinion columnist Allison Schrager. An average household consumed $43,500 in goods in 2020, accounting for 67% of the GDP. The number has grown 43% since 1990.

Countries in Europe pale in comparison. Germany, for instance, had an average household consumption of $21,500 in 2020, accounting for 50% of its GDP. For Europe as a whole, household consumption per capita grew just 35% since 1990.

The rising trend in U.S. consumption, per the author, reflects the changing lifestyle that revolves around spending. Forty-three percent of American households own three T.V.’s, for instance, while clothing purchases have increased 500% since 1980. It also is a result of having more space to put things — the average U.S. home was 2,000 sq. ft. in 2015, compared to 1,700 sq. ft. in 1980.

Shifts in Precipitation Patterns Threaten Health and Food Security

Temperatures will rise between 1.8 and 2.4 degrees Celsius by 2100, according to a Climate Ambition Tracker analysis of the decarbonization commitments made by countries at the 2021 COP26, which does not rule out higher levels of warming. 

In its latest report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change highlights how climate change is shifting global precipitation patterns: On average, wet regions are expected to become wetter and dry regions drier. 

Extreme rainfall events are becoming more common, and flood risk is increasing. Climate change is also reducing water availability in many regions, exacerbating drought, wildfire and health risks. According to the World Health Organization, by as soon as 2025 half of the world’s population will be living in areas impacted by water scarcity. Changes in rainfall and rising temperatures will also compromise food security by reducing crop yields and livestock productivity.

How Much Could Global Warming Impact the World Economy?

The effects of a 3.2 degree Celsius warming would reduce global GDP by 18%, according to The Swiss Re Institute. The increase in global temperatures has already reached 1 degree Celsius and is accelerating. To contain global GDP losses to 4% by 2050, warming would have to be below 2 degrees Celsius.

In August, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change launched the first installment of its Sixth Assessment Report. The document posits that the Paris Agreement goal of holding global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels will not be achieved without “immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.” 

World leaders met in November at COP26 to redouble their commitments to curb emissions. According to the Climate Ambition Tracker, global temperatures are set to rise between 1.8 and 2.4 degrees Celsius by 2100, depending on whether all decarbonization targets announced at COP26 will be implemented, with the risk of even more pronounced warming. 

The Pandemic Is Weakening the Stigma Around Mental Health

The prevalence of anxiety and depression has doubled in some countries during the pandemic, according to a report from the OECD. “Risk factors generally associated with poor mental health — financial insecurity, unemployment, fear” have heightened since COVID-19 hit, the report says, while beneficial factors, including social connection, “fell dramatically.”

The study notes that “differences in the openness of populations to discussing their mental state also hampers cross-country comparability,” referring to the stigma around mental health. Mental health is stigmatized through negative judgements, discrimination or dismissiveness toward those with trauma, depression, etc., which becomes a barrier to getting help, according to NAMI. But the spike in mental health issues has also led to a growing willingness to recognize and talk about such issues — chipping away at the stigma

Most countries have increased mental health resources during the pandemic. But, the OECD says we need a systemic-level response that includes assured mental health services and employers who actively support and contribute to the mental health of their employees.

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