The COVID-19 pandemic was expected to drive many families into hunger as jobs were lost and supply chains were interrupted. The prediction held true, but mostly for people of color.

The nation’s overall food insecurity rate remained the same between 2019 and 2020, but Black and Hispanic households fared the worst, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data released last month. Fewer white households’ struggled with food insecurity last year than the year before.

Experts attributed the steady rate to government programs, such as the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program (P-EBT), intended to fight hunger. However, some of these programs are slated to end next year, which has advocates worried about what could happen to families struggling to access food.

It was also too soon to say exactly what drove the racial disparities, experts said.

For Black households, entering the pandemic with a lower median income and higher poverty than other groups likely contributed to the disparity, said Geri Henchy, director of nutrition policy at the Food Research & Action Center, which seeks an end to poverty-based hunger.

“We know that disparities have long existed in access to proper healthcare, healthy foods and other components that influence someone’s quality of life,” Henchy said.

The USDA defines food insecurity as the uncertainty of access to adequate food. For Black households, the food insecurity rate increased more than 2% in 2020 compared to 2019, according to the USDA. Hispanic households saw about a 1.5% increase.

Read the full article about food access inequities by Amanda Pérez Pintado and Madison McVan at The Counter.