Disparity at Our Doorstep: Reports show tandem rise in U.S. food insecurity, record use of food delivery apps

Global food prices inched upward for the third consecutive month according to the latest FAO Food Price Index. While some Americans struggle to source their next meal, others are ordering high-priced food delivery straight to their door more than ever before.

Last month, in May 2024, global food prices saw a slight increase, primarily driven by rises in cereal and dairy prices. However, the disparity in food access in different parts of the United States is undeniable. While some are struggling with food insecurity, the food delivery industry is also reporting record numbers bringing meals directly to customers’ doorsteps.

FAO Food Price Index

The latest FAO Food Price Index released Friday morning is slightly up on the month by 0.9 percent due to a global increase in cereal prices, which saw a 6.3 percent increase. Dairy prices were also up 1.8 percent on the month. Meanwhile, meat dipped 0.2 percent; and, sugar saw the largest downturn of 7.5 percent.

While the overall index experienced its third consecutive monthly uptick, it currently sits 3.4 percent lower than this time last year, in May 2023.

Food Insecurity in the Midwest

According to a report by Feeding America, there has been a significant increase in food insecurity in the Midwest, with some states experiencing a 40 percent rise.

The Midwest, known for its agricultural production, may face disruptions in the food supply chain as demand for assistance programs grows. The report also highlights the urgent crisis of food insecurity in the south, where eight out of 10 counties facing high levels of food insecurity are located.

Food Delivery Boom

Here in the United States, a recent survey found that 70 percent of consumers order food delivery at least once a month. Of that larger group, 44 percent reported using a third-party app like DoorDash.

Further, 23 percent of respondents reported using the apps as much five to seven times each month.

Weird Spots & Gray Areas: Is Food Delivery Even Safe?

Despite rising global food prices and growing food insecurity at home, technology has continued to drastically reshape how some consumers get their food in recent years.

It has the attention of the FDA, the agency in charge of ensuring a safe food supply. Those changes have caused a lot of gray areas when it comes to managing food delivery, and how to regulate safety.

One such regulation is the Food Safety Modernization Act, which requires the FDA to simplify the tracking of food from production to the consumer’s door. The Association of Food and Drug Officials says there are now “weird spots” in areas of food delivery, and it is hindering their traceability efforts.

The FDA is working to bring more clarity about the risks of ordering food online, but they’re not ready to take any specific actions just yet.

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Marion is a digital content manager for RFD-TV and The Cowboy Channel. She started working for Rural Media Group in May 2022, bringing a decade of experience in the digital side of broadcast media as well as some professional cooking experience to the team.