CSU Leads Study Promoting Food Security During Pandemic
Coronavirus continues to disrupt most economies, even for strong countries like the U.S, as mentioned in USA FACTS.
Low-income households become more vulnerable to food scarcity during these critical times. This is especially true for families with children who rely on emergency food assistance programs.
The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research's (FFAR) grant worth $482,642 includes a study of emergency food provisions that serve children and families in five U.S. cities during the pandemic.
The grant is an extension of a $1 million FFAR Tipping Points grant to reduce food insecurity. The additional funding aims to examine the steps regarding policy and response to COVID-19, as written in the FFAR article.
The study, which was also published in Wiley Online Library, was undertaken by researchers at Colorado State University (CSU) along with Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland State University, Michigan State University, Ohio State University, the Sustainable Food Center, University at Albany, and UTHealth School of Public Health at Austin.
Three main factors were identified for the success of local responses to low-income food insecurity, specifically for 5 U.S. cities.
1. Cross-sector collaboration
Places with high cross-sector participation from stakeholders were able to reach out to more families needing help. Look at Denver, where the city officials had good working relationships with food rescue organizations to support food security efforts even before the pandemic period.
Areas with low collaboration efforts had more challenges, and finding it hard to succeed. Flint is an example where the ongoing water crisis resulted in distrust for local authorities.
2. Adaptable supply chains
Cities with adaptable supply chains are also more successful at sustaining their populations in need.
Flint and Cleveland experienced supply chain problems that limited smaller food banks' food availability with less purchasing power. Such issues required sourcing food supply from distant places.
When many of the smaller food banks in Denver closed at the beginning of the pandemic, other food banks were able to handle the increased demand.
There was also a big drop in the number of volunteers for many feeding programs, making it difficult to deliver food to vulnerable households. Albany and Cleveland overcame this problem when the National Guard stepped in to handle the food distribution.
3. Addressing gaps in service
As the pandemic hugely impacts underserved communities, it became essential to identify and resolve service issues to increased risk populations. Part of Denver and Austin's emergency response plans included prioritizing services to populations adversely affected by food insecurity.
The Office of Sustainability in Austin planned emergency food resources and outlined distribution sites to communities with higher food needs at the onset of the pandemic. Denver is at the helm of planning out a food security process to mesh with a wider and socially equitable pandemic recovery plan.
While the federal government has expanded the funding for school feeding programs in the spring of 2020, there was a lack of apparent federal mandate on how the programs should be carried out and until when it should continue.
Local governments were left with the task of developing their own plans to augment emergency food services to low-income families, experimenting with different degrees of effectiveness.
The research suggests that the federal government should provide more robust guidelines at the onset of the crisis instead of leaving the response planning and implementation to the community's regional and local sectors to fully support vulnerable families.