COVID-19 Economic Implications for Agriculture, Food, and Rural America: Food and Consumers

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic led to significant changes in U.S. consumers’ food spending patterns in early 2020, with a return to pre-pandemic spending patterns that continued through 2021. While closures of restaurants and nonessential businesses contributed to record unemployment increases during March and April 2020, unemployment fell to below pre-pandemic levels by December 2021. Although income and employment improved, some U.S. households continue to face difficulties obtaining adequate food, particularly in the face of increasing food prices.

Through a variety of data products, USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) monitors the pandemic’s effects on food spending, food prices, and food sufficiency.

These sections will be updated periodically as the information becomes available:

Food Spending During the Pandemic

April 2022 expenditures at food-away-from-home establishments—i.e., restaurants, school cafeterias, sports venues, and other eating-out establishments—exceeded the earlier record level seen in July 2021. Such food expenditures remained higher than pre-pandemic levels after their steep decline in March 2020 when the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic began. In March 2020, efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 included stay-at-home orders that led to significant changes in U.S. consumers’ food spending patterns. Following a sharp decline during March–April 2020, food-away-from-home spending returned to pre-pandemic levels by March 2021. Food-away-from-home spending outpaced food-at-home spending in each month since January 2021, returning to the pattern seen during each month of 2019. Total food expenditures presented year-to-year increases from March 2021 through April 2022. Food spending patterns in 2021 reflect the effects of the increased reopening of restaurants and increases in household income with economic recovery.

To read the rest of the story, please go to: USDA ERS