PREPRINT: The Early Food Insecurity Impacts of COVID-19
COVID-19 has disrupted food access and impacted food insecurity, which is associated with numerous adverse individual and public health outcomes. Methods We conducted a statewide population-level survey in Vermont from March 29-April 12, 2020, during the beginning of a statewide stay-at-home order. We utilized the USDA six-item validated food security module to measure food insecurity before COVID-19 and since COVID-19. We assessed food insecurity prevalence and reported food access challenges, coping strategies, and perceived helpful interventions among food secure, consistently food insecure (pre-and post COVID-19), and newly food insecure (post COVID-19) respondents. Results Among 3,219 respondents, there was a 33% increase in household food insecurity since COVID-19 (p<0.001), with 35.6% of food insecure households classified as newly food insecure. Respondents experiencing a job loss were more likely to experience food insecurity (OR 3.43; 95% CI, 2.45-4.80). Multiple physical and economic barriers, as well as concerns related to food access during COVID-19, are reported, with respondents experiencing household food insecurity more likely to face access challenges (p<0.001). Significant differences in coping strategies were documented between respondents in newly food insecure vs. consistently insecure households. Conclusions Since the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant increase in food insecurity in Vermont, accompanied by major food access barriers. These findings have important potential impacts on individual health, including mental health and malnutrition, as well as on future healthcare costs. We suggest proactive strategies to address food insecurity during this crisis.