A Crisis Within a Crisis: Food Insecurity Worsens in Louisiana


Peoples Health and Second Harvest Food Bank – Feeding South Louisiana prepared more than 890 Thanksgiving meals and 730 snack bags at the kitchen to distribute to local seniors during the holiday. (Photo Courtesy People’s Health)

According to Feeding America, the largest domestic hunger-relief nonprofit in the United States, Louisiana has the worst rate of childhood food insecurity in the nation. According to a recently updated study by the nonprofit, in 2020 32.3 percent – over 354,000 children – in Louisiana will face food insecurity. That’s up from 24.6 percent in 2018.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly made things worse, it’s not the only issue that Louisiana’s families have faced. The state has been hit by five named stormed this hurricane season:

  • Tropical Storm Cristobol made landfall in Louisiana on June 7
  • Tropical Storm Marco made landfall in Louisiana on August 25
  • Hurricane Laura made landfall as a Category 4 storm on August 27
  • Hurricane Delta made landfall as a Category 2 storm on October 9
  • Hurrican Zeta made landfall as a strong Category 3 storm on October 28

Only one of those storms has resulted in Louisiana families receiving disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (DSNAP) benefits, leaving many families who lost food due to evacuation or power outages without a way to replace them. Though families already receiving SNAP received replacement benefits for October due to Hurricane Zeta, DSNAP has not been approved for the storm.

While SNAP does serve as a first line of defense for many families, those benefits do not address many of the barriers faced by lower-income families. According to a study published in the Journal of Urban Health, many low-income families have been unable to engage in their normal shopping strategies of visiting several different food stores in order to find the most affordable products – meaning that the money and benefits they do receive are not stretching as far. SNAP recipients in Louisiana cannot order groceries online or to be delivered, and must shop in person – putting them at greater risk for COVID-19. In addition, the temporary closure of resources such as soup kitchens and senior centers, and the limited availability at many food banks due to the pandemic has made finding enough food challenging.

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Also, not every family qualifies for SNAP. Although Louisiana made emergency Pandemic-EBT benefits available over the summer, those benefits only covered the end of the 2019-2020 school year. No P-EBT benefits have been approved in the state for the 2020-2021 school year, in spite of many children remaining in virtual school throughout the state.

To alleviate the issue of food insecurity in Orleans Parish, the City of New Orleans currently has a meal assistance program in place. To be eligible, you must fit into one of the following categories and not receive any other federal support (including SNAP, Meals on Wheels, the NOLA Public School Meal Program, and state-sponsored homeless hotel services):

  • Seniors age 65 and up
  • Adults with high-risk health conditions (pregnancy, asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart or lung disease, obesity, cancer, compromised immune system, kidney disease, liver disease, HIV, AIDS, Sicle cell disease, etc)
  • Those who have tested positive for COVID-19 or who have been exposed and are isolating or in quarantine
  • Homeless residents
  • Children under 18

To apply for the COVID-19 meal assistance program, click here.

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