Stopping the Spread: Food Insecurity in Louisiana
The spread of COVID-19 across East Baton Rouge Parish has been devastating to many, often exacerbating problems already existing in our community. This is especially true of the alarmingly high number of individuals in EBR who fall under the USDA definition of being food insecure: those with limited or uncertain access to adequate food. In EBR Parish alone, approximately 64,120 people are food insecure and our child food insecurity rate sits at a staggering 21.6%, numbers only made worse with the spread of COVID-19.
The Food Insecurity Coalition (FIC) was founded as a direct result of the outbreak of COVID-19 in EBR Parish by the Walls Project in collaboration with leaders of nonprofits, foundations, city government, and local businesses across the parish. The coalition aims to gather information and resources to enhance food access in the community as we adapt to life in the pandemic. Since its inception, the coalition has met weekly to discuss ways to combat increasing food insecurity.
Korey Patty, Feeding Louisiana Executive Director, is one of over 100 individuals who participate in the weekly FIC meetings. He notes that there is more to unpack when it comes to food insecurity. Food insecurity encompasses not
only limited access to food but also “not knowing where your next meal might come from, running out of money to buy food, having to make less healthy food purchases to stretch limited budgets, etc.” While food insecurity is often attached to poverty in the global ethos, this is not always the case. Food insecurity affects individuals both systemically and as an outcome of circumstance. Patty elaborates,
“[Food insecurity] might also include the middle-class family impacted by job loss, natural disaster, or unexpected healthcare expenses. Our food assistance safety net must be able to support individuals and families that find themselves in need for a wide variety of reasons.”
COVID-19 is one such reason many families find themselves food insecure. Access to food is especially difficult for students, the elderly, and those without means of transportation to food distribution sites. Patty, who specializes in connecting policy with advocacy, believes that opportunities that exist to connect our food-insecure neighbors with the appropriate programs. He states, “I am hopeful that, with a new and better understanding of the broad scope of food insecurity in Louisiana, the state will work to coordinate these programs and efforts to ensure that we can analyze and address food insecurity holistically, rather than in siloed interventions.”
To read more about the ways Patty and Feeding Louisiana are combatting the increase in food insecurity due to COVID-19 or if you are in need of assistance, visit www.feedinglouisiana.org/covid-19.