A recent study conducted by the largest domestic hunger-relief organization in the U.S. found that approximately one in three of New Orleans children will experience food insecurity in 2020, in part due to the coronavirus pandemic. The study from Feeding America The Impact of the Coronavirus on Local Food Insecurity analyzes how food insecurity may increase this year for the overall U.S. population, as well as for children by state, county, and congressional district.
The study found that overall, Louisiana ranked highest in the nation for projected food insecurity among children statewide at 34.5 percent, and fourth overall at 21.7 percent. East Carroll Parish, LA will boast the highest food insecurity rate for children, with over half – 52.5 percent – of that parish’s children not having enough to eat. Lousiana’s 2nd District – which includes the New Orleans metro area and portions of Baton Rouge ranks highest in the nation for food insecurity among children at 41.7 percent.
According to Feeding America, an additional 23,110 people will experience food insecurity this year when compared to 2018, including an additional 8,430 children. The study found that structural disparities faced by Orleans Parish’s Black population, including “systematic barriers to those jobs less likely to be affected by the pandemic, lower than average wages, and greater employment instability” all contributed to higher rates of food insecurity.
According to The Data Center, 35 percent of Lousiana’s total unemployment claims for the week ending June 6th came from the New Orleans Metro Area. With tourism-related industries hit harder than most due to pandemic-related closures, over 110,000 workers either received unemployment benefits or filed an initial claim in the week ending June 6th. With bars throughout Orleans Parish once again closed by the order of Mayor LaToya Cantrell, those numbers are expected to rise.
New Orleans is attempting to help residents struggling to put food on their tables through a meal assistance program, which was recently extended until September 4th. Under the program, families with children, seniors, the homeless, and people affected by the coronavirus or other health problems are eligible to qualify, as long s they are receiving no other food assistance. Although the program can help up to 30,000 residents, only 9,000 have signed up so far.
Seventy of New Orleans’ restaurants have signed up to deliver meals to residents through the program, offering everything from traditional Creole and Cajun dishes to Mexican and Indian cuisine. The program is funded through an $18 million agreement with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and is one of the first such agreements in the country.
The program hasn’t been without flaw, however. According to the New Orleans Advocate|Times-Picayune, some residents have complained they received rotten food. According to city Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Director Collin Arnold, “we clarify and correct those issues as soon as possible… vendor performance is obviously a factor in whether or not [this program] continues, so it’s something we take very seriously.”