UVM study suggests pandemic will have long-term impact on food insecurity

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BURLINGTON, Vt. – An ongoing study at the University of Vermont is shedding light on the widespread issue of food insecurity, and how the pandemic has worsened that struggle for many Vermonters.

The study, which has surveyed 441 anonymous Vermonters throughout the pandemic, originally found that one in three Vermonters were dealing with food insecurity early in the pandemic. Of those people, roughly two-thirds were still having trouble one year into it.

Researches say the study suggests that the pandemic will likely have a long-term impact when it comes to keeping food on the table, and they hope the information will be helpful for future emergencies.

“We’re hoping that this will help us better understand how to be prepared for future disruptions,” said Ashley McCarthy, a post-doctorate researcher at the University of Vermont. “We don’t necessarily expect a pandemic like this to happen again, but we know economic recessions will, and a lot of what we’re learning also applies to economic recessions.”

More than half of survey respondents reported a job disruption during the pandemic, which includes job loss, reduction in work hours or income, or furlough. Of that population, nearly 20 percent were still experiencing a job disruption one year in.

“What we’re seeing is that the pandemic is likely to have a longer-term impact,” said Meredith Niles, who conducted the surveys along with colleagues in the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences and the Gund Institute. “Many people faced long-term job disruptions and even though some may be back at work, it doesn’t mean they aren’t still facing financial hardships.”

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