Pandemic adds urgency to the fight against food insecurity

We live in one of the most plentiful nations on the planet. Yet 1 in 6 people may face hunger in 2020, including 1 in 4 children. This public health crisis is unacceptable. And it is one that we must join together to address.

As the CEOs of Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, and Anthem, one of the nation’s leading health companies, we have witnessed the devastating impact food insecurity can have on our nation’s health. Understanding that no single entity can combat this growing national crisis, Anthem and Feeding America are working together to help deliver solutions.

But more collaboration is needed. We’re calling on fellow leaders to join us in taking urgent, collective action to end hunger in our country. Here’s how we can work together to solve this pressing issue.

Food insecurity is not a new issue in America. But the pandemic has made it far worse.

Food insecurity was a problem long before the pandemic. In 2019, more than 35 million people in America, including more than 10 million children, faced hunger. COVID-19 has exacerbated the issue. The Feeding America network estimates that in 2020 it is serving 50%-70% more people, and that 40% of current food bank visitors are families new to charitable food assistance.

This crisis isn’t just about getting food on the table. It’s about the tens of millions of families who must choose between purchasing groceries or their prescriptions. It’s about parents relying on costly emergency room care because they couldn’t access or afford preventive health visits for their children. And it’s about food-insecure young adults experiencing increased incidences of mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.

We know that food insecurity is directly linked to the whole health of individuals, families, communities and businesses.

Improving health is every company’s business.

Events of 2020 have highlighted disparities and inequities that have long existed across our nation. Communities of color are disproportionately experiencing severe illness and death from COVID-19. Systemic injustice and racism continue to restrict the opportunities in these same communities. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that Black and Latino households are also experiencing higher rates of food insecurity compared with the national average.

Feeding America and Anthem recognize how systemic racism and disparity affect a person’s access to food and health outcomes. We also know that partnerships with organizations closest to the communities they serve can have the greatest impact.

It is with this partnership approach in mind that in 2019, the Anthem Foundation and Feeding America created the Food Is Medicine initiative. Focusing on communities disproportionately affected by food insecurity and other social determinants of health, our initiative brings together the relief of food banks with the medical insight of hospitals to address food and health as one. For example, healthcare providers are screening their patients for food insecurity, providing food at the care site, and working with food banks to connect patients to additional nutrition resources. The program has made a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of individuals with the goal of improving health and increasing food security.

Let’s be proactive and work together in finding ways to do the most good and end systemic injustices and disparities on all fronts.

Empowered teams can make a big impact.

Employees are the heart and soul of every organization. As leaders we have an opportunity to inspire our teams to take action in their communities, and we call on you to lead them in the fight against hunger.

Action can come in many forms: active volunteerism, social media advocacy, donations of food, or financial aid. Look for ways to engage employees creatively and safely. It is the compassion and connection to local communities that is so important, especially today.

It will take a village.

Supporting local food banks is one of the first and best ways to make an impact on food insecurity. The Feeding America network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs plays a key role in supporting families by providing food and services nationwide. With more individuals than ever in need of assistance, food banks are critical resources and need support.

Without unified and coordinated action, the risk to our nation’s health will only grow, placing greater strain on our health infrastructure. We call on leaders across the country to join us and our diverse partners in collective efforts to address hunger, health, and equity. Together, we can make the difference.


Tags: covid-19, pandemic

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