I am certain many believed that COVID-19 would be a blip on the screen in 2020 and a sound reminder to us of the importance of good personal hygiene and keeping our distance from others when we are sick. Sadly, that is not the case.
Supply chain disruptions and sinking market prices tied to an outbreak or to the general reaction to COVID-19 have caused concern for many farmers. Many local businesses, forced to close or remain open at a limited capacity, have thrown in the towel.
It frustrates me to no end to be told that shopping online through a multinational e-commerce company instead of at local businesses in my small, rural community is the “right” thing to do.
Changes taking place are disrupting the lives of nearly everyone in some way. The estimated 37 million individuals, including more than 11 million children who were already food insecure, are undoubtedly facing challenges. The number of people who experience food insecurity today who did not last year is on the rise.
Before COVID-19, the Feeding America network of food banks served over 40 million individuals across the country. Since March, food banks have experienced increased demand, decreased donations and fewer people available to volunteer.
The economic health of individuals and communities across the country has been hit hard and fast with great risk for potential long-term repercussions.
It took a full decade for food insecurity rates to return to pre-Great Recession levels. It is unclear at this point when this current crisis will end, and Feeding America expects to see demand for charitable food assistance remain at elevated levels for the foreseeable future.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has several programs that offer food and nutrition assistance for children, including the School Breakfast Program, Special Milk Program and the National School Lunch Program.
Many school districts across the country continued to provide meals to students in need during school closures. Some districts made meals available through pop-up food systems, grab-and-go meal pickups, or along school bus routes.
The Women, Infants and Children program provides supplemental food to meet special dietary needs of this group.
My local food bank has a Buddy Pack program that is designed to get nutritious food to children who rely on free or reduced-price lunches during the school year. In many cases, children report that this is the only food they have when they are not at school.
I know there are parents who take the food from the packs for themselves. I know there are parents who misuse social programs. I choose to believe that most people are not made that way and they use the program at times in life when they need a leg up, not a handout.
There are food insecure children in your community. Some of them you know about and others you would never imagine live in a home with an empty pantry. A child has no control over when or where or what his next meal will be.
While so caught up in the impact the reaction to COVID-19 has and continues to have on us personally, let’s not forget about the children in our communities who could be suffering in silence.
Cyndi Young-Puyear is farm director and operations manager for Brownfield Network.