Introduction: In times of economic crisis, there have been sharp increases in levels of food insecurity. During the COVID-pandemic, the USDA reported that food insecurity remained stable at 15% in America from 20to 2020. This national average may not reflect the heightened risk of rural areas and counties with known socioeconomic disadvantages.
Objective: To evaluate food insecurity in a rural county with documented poor health outcomes and assess the impact of the COVID-pandemic.
Methods: We performed a cross-sectional survey of all households in Sullivan County, a rural county that has the second-worst health outcomes among all counties in New York State. The survey included two screening questions that have been validated to identify households with food insecurity. The questions were asked in reference to 2019, before the pandemic, and for 2020, during the pandemic. Respondents were also asked to fill out household and demographic questions. To help mitigate non-response bias, statistical raking was performed using age, sex, race/ethnicity, and health insurance strata. We also performed geospatial analysis within the county to identify significant clusters of food insecurity.
Results: Of 4,725 survey responses analyzed, 26% of households reported food insecurity in 2019, which increased to 35% in 2020. We identified high levels of food insecurity in 58% of Black households and 58% of Hispanic households in 2020. Food insecurity in 2020 was also present in 58% of unmarried households with children and in 64% of households insured by Medicaid. Nearest neighbor analyses revealed that hotspots of food insecurity were primarily located in or near urban clusters within this rural county.
Conclusion: Our countywide health survey of a particularly at-risk rural county identified significant increases in food insecurity during the COVID-pandemic. Economic responses to future pandemics may need to focus on bolstering food security among single households with children and those insured by Medicaid.
C.Quintero arias: None. B.Elbel: None. N.A.Mcgraw: None. D.C.Lee: None. M.Rony: None. E.Jensen: None. R.Patel: None. S.O'callaghan: None. C.A.Koziatek: None. K.Doran: None. R.Anthopolos: None. L.Thorpe: None.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (R01DK124400)