Battling food insecurity during a pandemic

Studies show access to food has worsened greatly since the coronavirus (COVID-19) began.

  • Food insecurity is a lack of consistent access or enough healthy food to maintain an active healthy lifestyle.
  • The number of households affected by food insecurity has doubled since the pandemic started.
  • Help is available if you need assistance feeding yourself or your family.

[3 MIN READ]

Even before the coronavirus (COVID-19) disrupted our lives, millions of people across America did not have consistent access to adequate amounts of food. And the repercussions of a global pandemic have only highlighted the harsh realities of food insecurity and increased the number of people dealing daily with its challenges.

Food insecurity encompasses more than hunger or a complete lack of food. It is defined as, “the lack of consistent access, quality and availability of food for an active, healthy life,” by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Food insecurity encompasses more than hunger or a complete lack of food. It is defined as, “the lack of consistent access, quality and availability of food for an active, healthy life,” by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

If COVID-19 is causing you to experience food insecurity for the first time, you are not alone.

Several recent studies, including the COVID Impact Survey and surveys from The Hamilton Project found that food insecurity has gone up dramatically since the pandemic began. Researchers asked a representative sample of people whether their food supply was adequate and, if not, if they could afford to buy more.

Their results show a huge increase of insecurity from pre-COVID-19:

  • Overall rates of affected households have doubled, with one in five now reporting food insecurity.
  • 17.4 percent of mothers with children ages 12 and under can’t afford to feed their children enough to meet their needs, compared to 3.1 percent in 2018.
  • The number of mothers with children ages 12 and under whose food supply ran out increased 170 percent.
  • 34.5 percent of households with a child age 18 and under are food insecure, an increase of about 130 percent.

The impact on the health of our communities could be tremendous. Lack of food can lead to psychological stress, poor health outcomes, chronic health conditions and malnutrition – especially for children and seniors. 

The impact on the health of our communities could be tremendous. Lack of food can lead to psychological stress, poor health outcomes, chronic health conditions and malnutrition – especially for children and seniors. Food insecurity undermines the physical and mental health of everyone it affects and amplifies the health disparities and economic differences for people who were already among our most vulnerable.

Dr. Rhonda Medows, President of Population Health Management at Providence, talked to Cheddar about how COVID-19 is making food insecurity worse for millions of people. Watch their conversation below to learn what Providence is doing to help the people in our communities and how you can get the help you need.

 

Varying levels of food security

There are varying levels of food insecurity. How much you’re affected can change at any time based on any number of influences in your life, including your health, income, employment status or even the presence of a pandemic. This graphic from Hunger and Health, illustrates how food insecurity can differ over time.

Source: Adapted from USDA Economic Research Service, also appearing in the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing.

Where can I find help?

If feeding yourself and your family is an increasingly difficult struggle, there are resources available that can help. However, if you’ve never applied for assistance before, the process may feel overwhelming. Here are some resources to help you understand the qualification process and how to begin the process.

If feeding yourself and your family is an increasingly difficult struggle, there are resources available that can help.

Call the USDA’s Hunger Hotline for information about emergency food providers in your community, government assistance programs and social services for which you may be eligible. The Hunger Hotline can be reached at 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8-HAMBRE, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. EST Monday through Friday.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There’s no shame in needing a little extra support. The following organizations provide hunger relief and food assistance:

In addition, you can find nutritious foods and recipes on a budget at FoodHero.org.

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Find a doctor

Our team of nutrition specialists can help you fine-tune your eating plan for maximum impact or find a doctor using our provider directory. You can search for a primary care doctor in your area.

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Related resources

Dr. Rhonda Medows on how coronavirus amplifies socioeconomic inequality

Malnutrition in older adults

Malnutrition in babies and young children

Providence supplying food security in rural Stevens county

Oregon resources

211 Info

Oregon Food Bank

Senior Farm Direct Nutrition Program

Oregon Food Resources

Need Food Oregon

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional’s instructions.

About the Author

We are all about food! The Providence Nutrition Team loves to talk about and share our expertise on how to help you find the right diet, food types and maintenance tactics to help you live life to the fullest...while also enjoying the best foods that mother nature has to offer.

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