Most households in Louisiana have access to healthy foods, but for those that don't, they face a hurdle called food insecurity. According to the Feeding America website, food insecurity refers to the lack of access to acquire enough food for an active healthy life for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritious foods. Food insecurity is a direct symptom of socioeconomic factors such as limited income, lack of food retailers, and proximity to food sources. People that are food insecure often worry where their next meal will come from. They also tend to feel anxiety about how to acquire food. Food insecurity can lead to negative health behaviors such as undereating to conserve food, overeating out of fear of facing hunger, or even complete loss of appetite due to fear of running out of money.
In 2019, six northeast region parishes occupied space in the top 10 parishes with the highest food insecurity rates among children according to Feeding America's website. It was projected that in 2021 Louisiana would rank third in states with highest overall food insecurity rates. In this same report, it was projected that Louisiana would rank first in terms of childhood insecurity rates. Food insecurity is detrimental to the physical, emotional and mental wellbeing of people. This obstacle paired with the world rapidly shifting due to the pandemic is a massive stressor to a large population of Louisiana, especially in rural areas which are often labeled as "food deserts".
Ultimately, food insecurity is a barrier to health that can be shifted within communities focused on public health. Because there are so many factors that contribute to this barrier, it will take some time and effort to make sufficient changes here in Louisiana. Changes such as the acceptance of SNAP benefits at farmers' markets or a healthy checkout in a grocery store are mighty additions to a community that can change someone's life for the better! While we rally and work together across parish lines to make long-term, sustainable change in our state, here are some ways you can help those in your community that may face food insecurity.
Most pantries are run by small groups of volunteers. Spend some time supporting others by helping during distributions or help by packing boxes. Sharing your time can be a huge benefit to others.
Take nonperishable foods, funds, or whatever you would like to give to your local shelter, faith-based organization, or just someone who needs it. Build a monthly donation box with your family or friends to give to someone in need.
Get to know what food insecurity in your community looks like. By arming yourself with knowledge specific to your area, you can become an advocate for change! Check out CountyHealthRankings.com or similar websites for data.
You can also join your local Healthy Communities Coalition as they work to make changes in the community to make it easier for everyone to make the healthy choice! Contact your local LSU AgCenter for additional information.
Membership and participation in activities and events are open to all citizens without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, veteran status or disability. If you have a disability that requires special accommodation for your participation, please contact us at 318-649-2663. The LSU AgCenter and LSU provide equal opportunities in programs and employment.