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The COVID-19 pandemic has inflicted devastating health, social, and economic effects globally. This study examines the experiences of young adults in the United States with respect to food insecurity during the pandemic and factors associated with higher and lower risk for young adult food insecurity.
Using the U.S. Census Bureau's Household Pulse Survey, a nationally representative survey collecting information on people's experiences throughout the pandemic, we analyzed prevalence of, and factors associated with young adult food insecurity during the pandemic.
Overall, 13% of young adults aged 18–25 years reported often or sometimes not having enough to eat in the last 7 days at a given time during pandemic, on average, with Black and Hispanic young people facing higher rates of food insecurity (22% and 15%, respectively) than White non-Hispanic peers (11%). Over the observed pandemic period, we find a decline in food insecurity among young adults corresponding with economic policy actions. Factors associated with a higher risk of food insecurity include lower household income, expected job loss, renting as opposed to owning housing, behind on rent or mortgage payment, lack of confidence in an ability to pay next month's rent or mortgage, delayed medical care, and feeling worried or depressed.
Our analyses reveal alarming levels of food insecurity among young adults, especially Black and Hispanic young people. Policy actions should include multifaceted and sustained interventions with a focus on supporting historically disenfranchised youth and their communities. These should prevent and address food and housing insecurity and mental health needs holistically.