[BATON ROUGE]; With vaccine distribution ramping up and unemployment at its lowest since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s easy to believe that things are returning to normal. But for thousands of Louisianans, returning to normal is not the ideal.
In Louisiana, thousands of people experience food insecurity, meaning they do not know where their next meal will come from or what it consists of. In 2019, 718,360 people including 249,680 children experienced food insecurity in the state. For thousands of Louisianians, hunger has been the norm for decades. The rates of child and senior hunger in the state are consistently some of the highest in the nation.
In 2020, as the pandemic progressed, the rate of food insecurity rose to affect 1-in-4 Louisianans and 1-in-3 Louisiana children. The latest projections from Feeding America show that while the number has begun to drop, need remains higher than pre-pandemic levels. As of 2021, an estimated 805,290 Louisianans including 282,000 Louisiana children continue to experience food insecurity in the state.
While this trend is heartening, on the ground, the need for assistance remains high. More than a year after the pandemic began, the Feeding Louisiana network of food banks and community partners are still working on the frontlines to serve these communities experiencing food insecurity. In Central Louisiana, veterans like Don continue to visit their local food pantry to help keep food on the table. “It helps me a lot. It saves me a ton of money that I don’t have,” said Don. He states he pays it forward immediately, helping a homeless family with meals while they get on their feet.
Louisiana’s food banks and anti-hunger advocates are working around the clock to respond to this persistent need, but they cannot do this work alone. Louisiana policymakers must not forget about this hunger crisis. We must invest in the programs and policies that support communities experiencing food insecurity as our economy recovers and beyond.
While we begin to move past the COVID-19 pandemic, the hunger epidemic in Louisiana will not go away. Louisiana policymakers must raise food insecurity as a critical issue in our state and implement policies that will have a real impact for Louisianans struggling to keep food on the table.