Survey Shows Food Security is the Top Challenge for Many Mississippi Families During the COVID-19 Pandemic
December 1st, 2020
By Sara Miller
A recent survey of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients from the Southern Economic Advancement Project’s (SEAP) South Strong project found that many Mississippians are facing exacerbated challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic in paying for basic necessities like food, housing, utilities and childcare despite the availability of temporary support measures. Many of these supports have expired despite the ongoing nature of the pandemic. More near term assistance is needed in addition to longer-term systemic changes to help families weather challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Southern Economic Advancement Project (SEAP) is a policy organization that seeks to bring attention to how race, class and gender intersect social and economic policy in the South and policy ideas to address these concerns. The SouthStrong project is a network of Southern policy organizations, and scholars seeking an equitable and people-first response to economic recovery in a post-pandemic South.
As HOPE has detailed throughout the pandemic, much of the hardship of the COVID-19 pandemic has been concentrated among communities that already faced health and economic challenges. Job losses due to the pandemic have been greater among workers earning lower incomes and among people of color.
Similarly, the survey of SNAP recipients in Mississippi found that the top three challenges since the pandemic began have been food security, child care issues, and loss of employment. Almost two out of three Mississippi respondents have had trouble purchasing food during the pandemic despite receiving SNAP. These findings squared with the findings of other analysis on hunger in Mississippi. For example, in the week ending November 9, more than 240,000 Mississippi families with children reported experiencing not having enough to eat. Almost one in three SEAP survey respondents also reported childcare issues and 29% lost employment.
While these findings pointed to the urgent need for state and federal aid during the pandemic, the survey also brought to light the challenges many Mississippians faced getting the help they needed. The survey found 57% of respondents had trouble accessing at least one type of aid during the pandemic. This included federal stimulus checks, unemployment insurance, SNAP and P-EBT (special SNAP benefits for children during the pandemic), and Medicaid. Much of the aid targeted to help families during the COVID-19 pandemic such as the enhanced unemployment insurance, protections from evictions, and stimulus checks have ended despite the fact the pandemic continues.
Food security was a challenge for many Mississippians well before the pandemic, whether it was people struggling to make ends meet in low wage work or who lacked access to fresh food where they lived. As the pandemic brings these issues to a crisis point, families and communities need both near-term recovery efforts as well as the types of improvements to food systems that HOPE has been working toward for the Deep South overall.
 U.S. Census, Household Pulse Survey, Food Sufficiency for Households with Children, in the Last 7 Days, by Select Characteristics: Mississippi, October 28 – November 9, https://www.census.gov/data/tables/2020/demo/hhp/hhp18.html