Addressing food insecurity: A California perspective

Addressing food insecurity: A California perspective

Food insecurity is a growing risk to the health and wellness of communities across America. According to the USDA[1]:

  • 10.5% - or 13.7 million – of U.S. households did not have enough food at some point during 2019.
  • 4.1% - or 5.3 million – U.S. households had very low food security in 2019.
  • According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information[2], prior to COVID-19 an estimated 13 million children were considered food insecure.

With school closures, a large number of families out of work and the need for social distancing, the coronavirus pandemic has worsened the food insecurity epidemic.

To learn how community partners are coming together to help those in need get a basic level of nutrition, Dora Barilla, Providence’s GVP for community health investment, hosted three guests who work on the ground in the High Desert region of California to gather some insights. Her guests include:

  • Christina Kennedy, VP Community Relations for High Desert Second Chance
  • Dawn Quigg, Community relations coordinator, Victor Valley Rescue Mission
  • Luis Yepiz, Program Manager, Food Forward

You can watch the full 32-minute conversation directly below, or scroll down to read the highlights from the discussion.

Barilla: Due to COVID there are many people who are experiencing food insecurity. 12% of Americans live in households where someone didn’t have enough to eat in the last 7 days. What are your organizations doing to meet this need in our communities?

Quigg: We are a memorandum of understanding organization, and this allows us to look for solutions across community partners. Our ecosystem is designed to address food insecurity in our communities. We have gone from 2500 food shipments to over 10,000 per week.

Kennedy: Within the first 30 days there was a 500% increase in demand for our services. In response, we increased 53 food supply agencies in 2019 to 73 to meet demand. We look for red zone areas where there are limited resources and food outlets, so we can be targeted in our approach to getting food supplies where they are needed most.

Yepiz: We look for places where we can make the most impact. In LA county and Ventura county, we delivered produce to a central location where many agencies can come to collect produce to distribute in communities where need was high. We work with approximately 2000 agencies to distribute food across California.

Barilla: Thinking about areas of high need, the red zones, how have you evolved the relationships with partners to address the changing needs in your communities?

Kennedy: As a networked system of 73 agencies, we share information to provide all kinds of assistance; whether it’s housing, health and wellness classes, flu shot classes, ready for reading or school supplies for children in need, we are identifying new opportunities to make our communities healthier and happier. We are a food bank, but we are a collaborative organization and our partners are stakeholders to help guide the new services we deliver.

Barilla: What are the greatest opportunities for partnerships as you think about the future?

Quigg: We strive match supply to demand, so we’re very focused on adding partner agencies that can fill a real unmet need. This balance is really all about trust so our partners know that we’re going to support them to the fullest to fulfill our shared mission. It’s important to keep track of where the gaps are in food insecurity so we can find the right partners to meet the needs of the communities we serve.

Barilla: What can people in the communities do to help address food insecurity?

Yepiz: The way I saw myself making a difference was volunteering. It may be more difficult now, but finding ways to volunteer can have a real impact on addressing the food insecurity problem facing the High Desert area or elsewhere.

 

Additional resources

NPR – A Crisis within a crisis: Food insecurity and COVID-19 (podcast)

Harvard Health – Food insecurity, COVID-19, and eating disorders

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References

[1] See Food Security in the U.S. from Economic Research Service, USDA (https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-us/key-statistics-graphics.aspx)

[2] See National Center for Biotechnology Information, part of NIH (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7274516/)

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