Hello everyone, my name is Ayla Ajanovic, and I am a student at UNC-Chapel Hill. My presentation focuses on how food insecurity has been impacted during COVID-19 and how people’s socioeconomic status effects them during a pandemic. This topic is of great interest to me as I work in a grocery store, so I have seen first-hand how consumers have been changing their shopping habits due to food insecurity. In my research I wanted to capture what specific changes people had made in their shopping habits, whether it was switching to online shopping or stockpiling. Also, I wanted to research how families of lower socioeconomic status had been impacted. Specifically, examining the correlation between falling into the lower socioeconomic group and being food-insecure.
In the beginning of the pandemic there was a lot of uncertainty in the world. With this uncertainty, households wanted to make sure that when they went to the grocery store they would have enough food to last them. With this being said, there was a great rise in stockpiling during the beginning of the pandemic. When customers would enter grocery stores, there would be many empty selves. “The unfamiliarity of empty store shelves increased fear and uncertainty about future food prices and availability, which further exacerbated stockpiling and stock-outs in grocery stores” (Ellison, McFadden, Rickard, & Wilson, 2020, p. 60). Stockpiling was just one way families had changed their shopping habits. Throughout the pandemic households have made fewer in-person trips to the grocery store and have started to engage with online shopping.
Shopping for groceries online has become very popular since the pandemic had begun. In North Carolina alone, online grocery shopping had gone up thirty-nine percent (Redman, 2020, pp. 2). There has been a huge factor that has caused many people to switch to online shopping and where they are specifically ordering from, this cause is availability. Availability is important because certain stores carry certain items that customers want. For example, this could be a store branded item or it could be an item that is hard to find at other grocery stores. Since the pandemic has been known for since March of 2020, North Carolina has recently lifted most of the restrictions that were in place, but consumers have not been changing the way they shop for groceries because they have grown accustomed to the routine of online shopping.
So you might be asking, what exactly is food insecurity? “Food insecurity is defined as limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways” (Adams, Caccavale, Smith, & Bean, 2020, p. 2056). With COVID-19, families have been struggling to keep the same shopping habits that they have had prior to the pandemic. To reduce the number of shopping trips and social exposure, families have been purchasing more food at a time. The certain foods that are being purchased include greater amounts of nonperishable, highly processed foods and fewer fresh foods such as fruits and vegetables. With this change in shopping habits, also comes the factor of parents controlling their children’s eating habits. Parents are using controlling feeding practices more because of higher levels of stress, fewer resources, and less access to food. Restrictive feeding practices are used when parents report higher stress and depression and live in food-insecure households. Something else that food-insecure households face, is parents experiencing a lack of food access and affordability which therefore restricts the amount of food their children eat. The families that are food-insecure would rely on schools to help feed their kids. With COVID-19, now there is “reduced access to school-provided meals that low-income children previously relied on for a substantial portion of their daily energy intake” (Adams, Caccavale, Smith, & Bean, 2020, p. 2057).
People’s socioeconomic status has impacted them greatly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, especially those who fall into the lower end of the spectrum of socioeconomic status. “During the three weeks between March 22 and April 11, 2020, total new unemployment claims in the United States totaled more than 22 million” (Goldstein & Enriquez, 2020, p. 1). When comparing that global number to North Carolina, in April the unemployment rate was 12.9 percent. North Carolina had taken a hard hit when Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order prohibited many places to shut down until things got better. With the order that Gov. Roy Cooper had issued the unemployment had grown tremendously in different places of the workforce. Most of the people that were unemployed in North Carolina were a part of a family that fell into the lower socioeconomic status group. These families have been impacted the most because prior to the pandemic they did not have the sufficient funds to provide for their families and since COVID-19 it has only been worse for them.
With food insecurity growing for families that are of lower socioeconomic status, the scarcity had rose steadily as income losses compounded and benefits had proved to be insufficient to cover necessary spending, especially for families who used to receive meals for their children at school and were making ends meet with the same benefits they received during normal times. Many families of lower socioeconomic status had been skipping meals or even relying on family and friends for meals. “By late May, the proportion of households reporting food insecurity dropped to 58 percent, and it rose to roughly 64 percent by household by mid-June” (Goldstein & Enriquez, 2020, pg. 8). This data shows that households that are food-insecure have been fluctuating and it is hard to tell what each month is going to look like. With the rise of households being food-insecure I looked at how many food insecure households were in North Carolina. There are almost 604,000 food insecure households in North Carolina. This shows that the pandemic is not only a nationwide crisis, but it is affecting many people in individual states.
Throughout all the research that I have conducted, I have been able to see how people have adjusted their shopping habits in a pandemic. Whether those changes were switching to online grocery shopping or just stockpiling a lot of groceries at once. I have also learned more about how socioeconomic status can really affect your lifestyle. Having to rely on other people for help is something that nobody wants to go through and COVID-19 has only made that harder for people. With all the information that was presented, the biggest take away from this research is that the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced the actions people have been taking while shopping for groceries and also it has impacted families of lower socioeconomic status due to their financial situation in such unprecedented times.
Thank you for your time.
Adams, E. L., Caccavale, L. L., Smith, D., & Bean, M. K. (2020, August 6). Food insecurity, the home food environment, and parent feeding practices in the era of COVID‐19. The Obesity Society, 28(11), 2056-2063. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary-wiley-com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/doi/full/10.1002/oby.22996
Ellison, B., McFadden, B., Rickard, B. J., & Wilson, N. L. (2020, October 19). Examining food purchase behavior and food values during the COVID‐19 pandemic. Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, 43(1), 58-72. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary-wiley-com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/doi/full/10.1002/aepp.13118
Goldstein, A., & Enriquez, D. (2020, November 25). COVID-19’s socioeconomic impact on low-income benefit recipients: early evidence from tracking surveys. Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World, 6, 1-17. Retrieved from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2378023120970794
Redman , R. (2020, May 27). Nearly 80% of U.S. consumers shopped online for groceries since COVID-19 outbreak. Supermarket News. Retrieved from https://www.supermarketnews.com/online-retail/nearly-80-us-consumers-shopped-online-groceries-covid-19-outbreak.
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