Food needs in low-poverty ZIPs trending up?

In an earlier report, we noticed that food requests to 2-1-1s from low-poverty ZIP codes had larger percentage increases from pre- to post-COVID than ZIP codes with higher poverty rates. Eight weeks later, the same pattern seems to be holding. This time we examined only post-COVID phone requests to 2-1-1 for food pantry referrals, which totaled 143,338 in 32 states participating in a daily tracking system of 2-1-1 requests. We divided the post-COVID dates into three periods of equal size: March 15 – April 8 (early), April 9 – May 3 (mid), and May 4 – May 28 (late). Low-poverty ZIP codes – those with < 5% population living in poverty – accounted for 3% of all food pantry requests to 2-1-1s during the early period, 4% in the mid-period, and 5% in the late period. In contrast, high poverty ZIP codes (≥ 25% poverty) accounted for 31%, 28% and 27% of total requests. Requests from mid-poverty ZIP codes (between 5 to < 25%) increased from 66% to 68% from the early to mid time period, then remained at 68% in the late period. Findings may indicate that the economic fallout of the pandemic is extending into populations with typically low use of 2-1-1, or may reflect the results of local food promotions that partner with 2-1-1s, and reach a broader audience that 2-1-1s typically do. Analyses include 2-1-1s in all or parts of 32 states that participate in a daily tracking system: AL, AR, CA, CT, DE, FL, HI, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, NC, NE, NJ, NV, NY, OH, PA, SC, SD, TN, VA, WA, WI and WY. Requests without ZIP code information (e.g., web requests) were excluded from analyses. Poverty data are from the U.S. Census Bureau 2014-2018 American Community Survey 5-year Estimates.

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