Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the number of Texans seeking food bank assistance has risen 200%. This dramatic increase in food insecurity has caused immeasurable stress and suffering, eroding the health and wellbeing of people across the state. In the midst of this greatly increased need for help, the surplus agricultural products grant, a key aspect of food bank support, has been drastically cut. If this reduction remains in place, the opportunity to acquire almost 20 million pounds of healthy local produce will be lost. Hunger involves quantifiable economic costs in the form of increased health care and social service needs, inferior educational outcomes, and lost productivity. The Perryman Group estimates that cutting the surplus agricultural products grant would cost the state economy hundreds of millions of dollars over time, with economic harms spreading across the entire economy. Because economic activity generates taxes, the cut would also lead to reductions in State and local taxes. State costs for health care and education would also rise due to the effects of hunger.
Even beyond the obvious physical and mental costs of food insecurity and the incalculable toll on the stability and dignity of families across the United States, there is also a tremendous economic cost. Health care needs of people who are food insecure are higher due to increased incidence and severity of disease. Health outcomes are also worse, reducing productivity and lifetime earnings. In addition, education expenses are higher, with a greater need for intervention such as special education. Achievement levels (and, hence, lifetime earnings) are negatively affected. These costs multiply as they work their way through the business complex and are largely borne by the whole of society. The Perryman Group estimates that hunger costs the US economy $461.9 billion in total expenditures and $221.9 billion in gross product each year as well as nearly 2.5 million permanent jobs on an ongoing basis.
Tens of millions of Americans do not have enough food to meet basic daily needs, which is nothing short of tragic. Every year that this problem is allowed to persist literally saps trillions of dollars in long-term economic potential from the United States. This infographic summarizes the findings in our report, Hunger: Economic Perspectives, Sustainable Solutions.