Food Insecurity in Grandparent-Headed Homes

Many financial and childcare needs drove young families back to their parent’s homes during the coronavirus pandemic when schools and daycares closed, and people were struggling to teach, learn and work from home.  Now with soaring food, housing and fuel costs, multigenerational homes continue to be more commonplace – and a growing number of grandparents with grandchildren under their roof are experiencing food insecurity. 

According to a recent Washington Post Personal Finance report, the rate of food insecurity among grandparent-headed households with grandchildren is 60 percent greater than all other U.S. households with children.   Food prices soared 11.2 percent in the past year, according to September data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and about a quarter of grandparent-headed households experienced food insecurity between 2019 and 2020. 

Because many of the grandparents with grandchildren in their homes are over the age of 60, they may not qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Sometimes grandparents are not aware they qualify for food assistance because they do not have legal custody of their grandchildren. 

With better outreach and education, it is hoped that more grandparents will benefit from nutrition programs.  A recent report by Generations United also recommends a “child only” SNAP benefit based on the needs of the child rather than the household income. 

In Canada, research from the University of Toronto shows that food insecurity remained largely unchanged over the last three years.  Across all provinces, 5.8 million people live in food-insecure households, including 1.4 million children.  With inflation and a sharp increase in food prices, people with severe food insecurity will suffer more without policy changes and income support.

Many people feel shame and there is a continuing stigma about using SNAP – formerly referred to as Food Stamps, as well as food banks. Programs that offer free nutritious meals to all students or provide electronic benefit transfer cards for families can help people retain their dignity while accessing support.