Majority Express Challenges with Food Access
1 New Mexico State University
2 University of New Mexico
BE BOLD. Shape the Future.
New Mexico State University
The majority of respondents experiencing food insecurity since the coronavirus outbreak were not participating in food assistance or emergency food programs (Table 1). In fact, respondents with food insecurity reported less utilization of SNAP and WIC since the outbreak.
Figure 1. Specific USDA food security questions, which classify respondents as food secure (not experiencing food insecurity) or food insecure.
The Impact of COVID-19 on New Mexicans Experiencing Food Insecurity
College of Agricultural, Consumer
and Environmental Sciences
Overall, 87.9% of respondents experiencing food insecurity in the year before coronavirus remained food insecure during the coronavirus outbreak.
Respondents experiencing food insecurity expressed a number of food disruptions and concerns since the outbreak. For example, 91.5% of respondents experiencing food insecurity said they couldn’t afford to eat balanced meals (Figure 1).
Respondents experiencing food insecurity since the coronavirus outbreak were more likely to be people of color, female, live in households with children, and live in larger households.
87.9% of respondents who experienced food insecurity at some point in the year before the coronavirus outbreak remained food insecure during the outbreak.
The majority of respondents experiencing food insecurity since the outbreak were not utilizing food assistance or emergency food programs. Food insecure respondents reported less utilization of SNAP and WIC since the outbreak.
Two thirds of respondents experiencing food insecurity since the outbreak were already buying different, cheaper foods and about 60% were eating less to make their food last.
65% of respondents experiencing food insecurity with a job had job disruptions or loss since the coronavirus outbreak.
Those reporting that others bring them food more than doubled since the coronavirus outbreak, suggesting that New Mexicans are helping each other.
This report is part of a three-part series highlighting the results from an online survey launched in New Mexico on May 21, 2020 (two months after “stay at home” orders were issued) through social media ads, media coverage, and community partners. The survey was open for five weeks and received a total of 1,487 responses.
This report provides a summary of results from respondents experiencing food insecurity since the coronavirus outbreak. Food insecurity was measured using the USDA’s validated six-item household food security survey module.1 Respondents were classified as food insecure if their answers indicated they experienced low or very low food security since the coronavirus outbreak (n= 423). For detailed information on the full results from all respondents or from those who experienced a job disruption, please see the separate reports dedicated to those topics. Additional analyses are ongoing and future articles will explore these topics in greater detail.
1 https://www.ers.usda.gov/media/8282/short2012.pdf https://www.ers.usda.gov/media/8282/short2012.pdfhttps://www.ers.usda.gov/media/8282/short2012.pdf https://www.ers.usda.gov/media/8282/short2012.pdf
Table 1. Program Participation Among Respondents Experiencing Food Insecurity (n=423)
Compared to those who had not experienced food insecurity since the outbreak, those who did experience food insecurity:
The use of farmers’ market by food insecure households decreased from 28.1 % to 7.8% during the coronavirus outbreak, limiting the ability to access fresh, local New Mexico products.
More than 1 in 3 (34.1%) households experiencing food insecurity reported growing their own food since the coronavirus outbreak.
Respondents experiencing food insecurity were more likely to spend more time cooking since the coronavirus outbreak and were more likely to deliver food to a friend, neighbor, or family member compared to those that were food secure (Figure 3).
“I live in a rural area. Getting food requires leaving the house and driving 30 minutes to the closest store [with] no guarantees they will have any of what you are looking for.”
“Las estampillas las agarramos apenas a mediados de mayo solo tenemos un mes con ellas pero es de gran ayuda una bendicion.”
[We got [food] stamps only in mid-May, we’ve only had them for a month but it is a great help, a blessing]
Figure 4. Perceived helpfulness for a variety of potential strategies between food secure and food insecure respondents (includes responses of “somewhat helpful,” “helpful,” and “very helpful”).
Higher Food Worry and Coping Strategies
Impact of COVID-19 on New Mexicans Experiencing Food Insecurity
For respondents experiencing food insecurity, the top food sources since the coronavirus were grocery stores (74.9%), restaurant delivery (69.9%), and convenience stores (44.3%).
Households experiencing food insecurity were less likely to use a farm CSA/local farmstand, a farmers’ market, or specialty store (e.g. coop, health food store, ethnic market) in the past year compared to food secure households.
Respondents experiencing food insecurity reported using their own vehicles, someone delivering their food, or walking or biking as the most common means of transportation to obtain food. Since the coronavirus outbreak, those reporting that others bring them food more than doubled (from 12.1% to 27.2%).
Compared to food secure respondents, respondents experiencing food insecurity reported greater frequency of challenges related to food access since the coronavirus outbreak, including finding the amount and types of food needed, food affordability, and food pantry access (Figure 2).
Were more likely to express worry and anxiety over a number of potential coronavirus and food access concerns, especially the potential increased cost of food (Figure 5).
Were more likely to already be utilizing (and likely to utilize in the future) coping strategies because they had trouble affording food.
66.8% are buying different, cheaper foods;
66.6% are buying foods that would last longer, and;
59.9% are eating less.
Respondents experiencing food insecurity were more likely to find any potential assistance strategy to be helpful, with the most helpful strategies being: additional money for food/bills, more (or different) food in stores, and greater trust in the safety of stores (Figure 4).
Over half of food insecure respondents perceived potential strategies like more information about food assistance (61.4%) and increased benefits of existing programs like SNAP (56.7%) to be helpful.
Figure 3. Behavioral change since the coronavirus between food secure and food insecure respondents (includes responses of “usually” and “always”).
Figure 2. Experiences and challenges since the coronavirus between food secure and food insecure respondents (includes responses of “usually” and “always”).
Food insecure households reported purchasing less fresh food items (36.9%), snacks (32.9%), frozen meats and seafood (28.6%), and premade foods (27.2%). Of concern is the 17.3% who reported purchasing less medication.
Food insecure households reported purchasing more hand sanitizer (44.7%), toilet paper (31.7%), and feminine care products/diapers (17.0%), which are not available through food assistance programs (Figure 6).
Certain Households More Likely to Experience Food Insecurity
Compared to food secure respondents, those experiencing food insecurity were more likely to purchase less of all items (food items, alcoholic beverages, medicine, household items like toilet paper, etc.).
More than half of food insecure households reported purchasing more canned food items (53.9%) and shelf-stable pantry items like pasta (50.8%). Forty-three percent of food insecure respondents reported purchasing more basic frozen items.
Job Loss and Disruption
Figure 6. Changes in buying patterns compared between food secure and food insecure respondents. This figure does not include those that indicated they were buying “the same” amount of a product.
Buying Less, Shifts in Purchasing
Figure 5. Percent of respondents reporting worry related to food and coronavirus (responses of 4-6 on a scale from 1 (not worried at all) to 6 (extremely worried)) among food secure and food insecure respondents.
Indicated, on average, that an extra $142 per week would help them meet their food needs (compared to $131 per week for food secure respondents).
Households with children (44.3% compared to 21.2% with no children)
People of color (38.9% compared to 26.6% in white respondents)
Female respondents (31.5% compared to 18.2% in male respondents)
We would like to express our sincere gratitude to the individuals that shared their experiences by completing the survey. We would also like to thank the many community organizations and institutions that assisted with the dissemination of our survey, particularly New Mexico First, New Mexico Thrives, Presbyterian Healthcare Services, and New Mexico State Extension. We also want to thank Gaby Phillips and Aracely Tellez for help with translating the survey into Spanish.
The research team is a member of NFACT. The National Food Access and COVID Research Team (NFACT) is a national collaboration of researchers committed to rigorous, comparative, and timely food access research during the time of COVID. To learn more visit nfactresearch.org.
“[The] only local store has raised prices on certain items I purchase. [I] have to travel 90 miles to [another] city to buy items not carried locally.”
64.7% of respondents experiencing food insecurity with a job reported job disruption or loss since the coronavirus outbreak.
7.9% were furloughed (compared to 2.3% of food secure respondents)
24.9% had a reduction of hours (compared to 9.2% of food secure respondents)
15.9% lost their jobs (compared to 4.1% of food secure respondents)