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In March, 40% of low-income Americans were already struggling to afford enough food for their households, report researchers. And only 18% of them were able to stock up enough food for two weeks, the findings show, as states started closing schools and issuing stay-home orders.

Using data from a national survey of low-income adults in mid-March, Julia Wolfson and Cindy Leung of the University of Michigan School of Public Health measured household food security—the lack of consistent access to food—and challenges to meeting basic needs due to COVID-19.

“Our study shows that a robust, comprehensive policy response is needed to mitigate food insecurity as the pandemic progresses, particularly expansion of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Benefits, robust unemployment benefits, and ensuring access to food for children eligible for free and reduced-price school lunches through the summer and beyond,” says Wolfson, assistant professor of health management and policy.

“Doing so will allow us to better support the needs of the population as the spread of COVID-19 continues.”

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