The United States is on the verge of another recession due to the rising prices. While many individuals may want to brace for high unemployment and company closures, a recent study reveals that another effect may be a shift in our diets. During a recession, individuals eat less protein and green vegetables and more sugar and fatty foods, according to Sacred Heart University researchers.
The diet shift impacted more people in families where overall food access is limited. Lower quality, ultra-processed meals are sometimes far less expensive than healthy alternatives for consumers.
“Overall, we found that the Great Recession had a negative impact on dietary behaviors in both adults and children,” says Jacqueline Vernarelli, PhD, director of research education and associate professor of public health at Sacred Heart.
While the researchers did not explicitly assess the COVID-19’s influence on eating, they do believe it is a crucial component that impacts today’s economy.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in unprecedented increases in food insecurity, and a dramatic increased need for emergency food resources and other types of food assistance,” Dr. Vernarelli explains. “By identifying key intake patterns during the previous recession, we can identify areas that may need intervention now and during the [pandemic] recovery years.”
In a bad economy, children consume 200 extra calories each day
The researchers gathered information from over 60,000 adults and children in the United States. They investigated people’s diets and family food security prior to, during, and after the Great Recession of 2007 to 2010.
Household food security was defined as having enough food for everyone in the household to live an active and healthy life. Food-insecure households, on the other hand, have limited or uncertain access to enough healthful food. People who are food insecure are more likely to suffer from nutritional deficiencies and chronic diseases.
The findings revealed that when families choose cheaper items over better ones, the nutritional quality of the food decreases. Food-insecure families may have enough food to keep everyone fed, but the variety and quality of their meals may decrease. During the Great Recession, children living in low food security households consumed more solid fat and sugar. Children consumed 200 more calories per day than they did prior to and during the recession.
“Using historical data to understand and anticipate potential nutrient needs and areas of concern may better help public health nutritionists serve communities faced with food insecurity, as well as help inform decisions related to food assistance policy,” Dr. Vernarelli says.
The study’s authors say that the findings might influence policies that increase access to healthy foods in programs such as SNAP, WIC, and the National School Lunch Program.
The study’s findings were presented at Nutrition 2022 Live Online.