The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Food Insecurity

Food insecurity means limited or uncertain access to enough food for a healthy, active life. Unsurprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic has made food insecurity worse. It has cost people jobs and homes. It has crippled food systems worldwide.

One in nine Americans may experience food insecurity in 2021 — about 13% of the U.S. population. For kids, the rate of food insecurity is even higher: one in six.”

Fortunately, all around Baltimore, charitable organizations, corporations and healthcare partners are working to fight food insecurity.

Health Effects

In addition to hunger, food insecurity has far-reaching effects on health. Some patients with empty cupboards will buy fast food or highly processed food. These are often cheaper and easier to get. Some will skip medical care or medicine to buy food. Others must spend what they earn to keep a roof over their heads.

According to Feeding America, those experiencing food insecurity are at higher risk for diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Underfed children risk delayed development. This can affect the way a child moves, communicates, thinks and learns, or behaves with others. It can also increase the risk of conditions such as asthma and behavioral problems.

That’s why healthcare provider Priority Partners is paying attention to the food struggles in the communities they serve. They are providing information on how to eat healthier on a budget and how to locate food banks when needed.

Other local businesses are helping as well. For example, a local store, H&S Bakery, provided up to 2,000 loaves of bread per week to the Baltimore Hunger Project over the past year. That bread turned into many bologna, tuna, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Food Banks

For those in need in the Baltimore area, the Maryland Food Bank provides 37 million meals to Marylanders annually. In most Baltimore zip codes, there is some sort of food bank within walking distance.

The pandemic forced the Maryland Food Bank and its partner organizations to adapt. The food bank ran almost 3,000 pantry-on-the-go events from March to December 2020. And the food bank created “backup boxes,” prepackaged 30-pound containers. This allowed for easier distribution of healthy foods to those in need throughout the state.

School Lunches

Food insecurity affects more than 100,000 children in Baltimore City and Baltimore County, according to the Baltimore Hunger Project. That problem increased when schools moved to remote learning. Closed school buildings meant no school-provided breakfasts, snacks and lunches.

To address this new reality, charitable groups mobilized. For example, the Baltimore Hunger Project nearly tripled its capacity. It fed 2,300 school-aged children and their families within a matter of weeks.

Getting Involved

Organizations fighting food insecurity need money. From March to December 2020, Maryland Food Bank spent more than $20 million purchasing food.

Fighting food insecurity also requires volunteers. The processes and procedures of volunteering have changed due to the pandemic. For example, Movable Feast is a food delivery organization that serves Marylanders experiencing food insecurity and chronic illness. They deliver medically tailored meals and provide nutrition education. They are taking applications for drivers to make no-contact deliveries to clients.

Everyone’s aim is to achieve racial, social and health equity.

Learn more about how you can access these programs or help in the fight against food insecurity in your community. Visit these or other organizations’ websites: Movable Feast, the Maryland Food Bank and the Baltimore Hunger Project.