food insecurity

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

As the new school year gets underway, some students are in classrooms and others are at home but one thing is now clear: all kids can get free school meals. That’s because the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program and the Summer Food Service Program, has extended the pandemic provisions it introduced last spring, which include eliminating the requirement that families apply for reduced-fees or free meals. 

Courtesy of Katie Plohocky

While COVID-19 has hampered farmers this year by forcing many farmers markets and restaurants to close, usually it’s the weather that threatens crops. A practice called “gleaning” helps save crops from going to waste while feeding those in need. 

Heavy rain was causing flooding all along the Arkansas River. Before Joe Tierney knew it, water from the nearby creek was creeping forward onto his farm in Bixby, Oklahoma. He had to evacuate, leaving behind fields full of vegetables. All Tierney could do was watch the water get closer and closer, he says.

Christina Stella / Harvest Public Media

Lexington, Nebraska, is just one of the many rural communities that has long dealt with food insecurity, but the global pandemic both intensified need in the town of 11,000 residents and presented new challenges in getting people food. 

Dana Cronin/Harvest Public Media

 

Ja Nelle Pleasure never used to think twice about putting food on the table for her family.

In fact, the Pleasure family revolved around food. One of their favorite activities was to spin a globe, put a finger down and cook a dish from the country where it lands.

“It was a lot of fun because we got to eat all over the place, stuff that none of us would have dared try before, like silkworms,” she says. “They really look disgusting and scary… But when you eat it, it tastes like popcorn.”

Erica Hunzinger / Harvest Public Media file photo

 

Before the pandemic, the food pantry at St. Patrick Church in Urbana, Ill. served meals to more than 100 families per week. They operated with the help of about 60 volunteers, most of whom are retirees.

Since the pandemic, nearly 20 of them have stopped volunteering. 

Esther Honig / Harvest Public Media file photo

 

The number of families experiencing food insecurity has hit a record due to the pandemic, and Black and Hispanic families are disproportionately affected.

 

A new study from Northwestern University, based on Census Bureau data, shows that 40% of Black households and 36% of Hispanic households are struggling to afford food. Meanwhile, about 22% of white households are reporting food insecurity.

Food Pantries Strain To Serve More People

Dec 24, 2019
courtesy of DMARC

Food pantry use is up in many Midwest communities, despite a reasonably strong economy and low unemployment rate. There can be several reasons for the increased need for free food.