Skip to content

Shoplifting Is Spiking In Grocery Stores Nationwide, New Report Says

As rates of hunger increase, so does the prevalence of shoplifting.
grocery cart

The pandemic has brought hardship upon many Americans this year, with more than 20 million Americans currently on some form of unemployment assistance. As income disappears and families begin to experience hunger, the prevalence of shoplifting heightens, says a new report.

Some 54 million Americans are projected to struggle with hunger this year—an increase of 45% from the year prior, as noted by the USDA. And according to The Washington Postmore Americans are shoplifting for basic necessities at the grocery store more than ever before. (Related: 8 Grocery Items That May Soon Be in Short Supply.)

"We're seeing an increase in low-impact crimes," Jeff Zisner, chief executive of workplace security firm Aegis, told The Washington Post. "It's not a whole lot of people going in, grabbing TVs and running out the front door. It's a very different kind of crime—it's people stealing consumables and items associated with children and babies."

Since the pandemic began, there have been more incidences of shoplifting than in previous economic downturns. Industry experts say that there is a key commonality in what's being stolen across grocery stores nationwide—people are going for staples such as bread, pasta, and baby formula. The Census Bureau also told The Washington Post that nearly 26 million adults reported not having enough food to eat as of mid-November, a record high.

Resources for food assistance programs are becoming sparse for those in need as well, which is another reason why Americans are turning to shoplifting. Meal shortages are on the horizon at major food banks across the country too, as federal funding is set to expire at the end of the month. In addition, food aid programs such as SNAP and WIC are being reduced.

Some store managers are no longer reporting small instances of shoplifting to police, as they're too busy making sure other precautions and safety measures are being carried out and followed, such as temperature checks and mask regulations. At the end of the day, the thing that's driving people to shoplift is hunger, which begs the question, what's the right thing to do?

For more, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.

Cheyenne Buckingham
Cheyenne Buckingham is the news editor of Eat This, Not That!, specializing in food and drink coverage, and breaking down the science behind the latest health studies and information. Read more