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Data: U.S. Department of Agriculture; Chart: Axios Visuals

New data shows rates of hunger among U.S. households didn't spike in 2020, despite the effects of the pandemic.

The big picture: Economic downturns as sharp as the one experienced during the worst of COVID-19 last year usually result in devastating spikes in hunger. 1 in 10 households are still food insecure, but massive increases in aid helped avert much worse.

By the numbers: According to a report released today by the USDA, 10.5% of U.S. households reported some level of food insecurity in 2020 — the same percentage as in 2019.

  • The percentage of households that reported very low food security — meaning they worry food will run out before they get money to buy more — actually declined from 4.1% in 2019 to 3.9% in 2020.

Flashback: That's not how the situation looked through much of 2020, when the sudden loss of 20 million jobs caused by the pandemic led to major stress on food banks throughout the U.S.

  • During the Great Recession in 2008, food insecurity spiked sharply from 11.1% to 14.6% of U.S. households, and didn't dip below 14% until 2015.

What they're saying: "This is huge news — it shows you much of a buffer we had from an expanded safety net,” Elaine Waxman, who researches hunger at the Urban Institute in Washington, told the New York Times.

Yes, but: Food insecurity did rise among some groups, including households with children, which went from 6.5% to 7.6%.

  • The hunger gap between Black and white households widened as well, from 11.2 percentage points in 2019 to 14.6 percentage points in 2020.
  • And while the U.S. was able to shield itself from a hunger pandemic, poor countries were far less fortunate, leaving world hunger at a 15-year-high in 2020.

What to watch: Whether President Biden's $3.5 trillion spending plan, which would further expand the pandemic-era safety net, becomes law.

Go deeper

Oct 22, 2021 - Health

Illinois mandates daycare workers to receive COVID vaccine or weekly testing

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks during a round table discussion with high school students in October 2018. Photo: Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) announced Friday that all daycare workers in the state will be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or or submit to weekly testing.

Driving the news: Pritzker said he was issuing the requirement to protect "babies, toddlers, and young children not yet eligible for the vaccine."

Oct 22, 2021 - Health

CDC director: U.S. may change definition of "fully vaccinated" as boosters roll out

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. Photo: Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Friday the U.S. "may need to update" its definition for what it means to have full vaccination against COVID.

The big picture: The CDC and the FDA have officially approved boosters with every authorized vaccine in the U.S. for people who meet specific requirements. Walensky explained that since not everyone is eligible for a booster, the definition has not been changed "yet."

Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Fauci fires back at Rand Paul for slam on tonight's "Axios on HBO"

Responding to charges by Sen. Rand Paul on Sunday's "Axios on HBO," NIAID director Anthony Fauci told "ABC This Week" that it's "molecularly impossible" for U.S.-funded bat virus research in China to have produced COVID-19.

Why it matters: The issue 0f Wuhan research was reignited on the right last week with a National Institutes of Health letter to Congress disclosing more about the research.

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