Food Insecurity and the COVID-19 Pandemic

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More than any other word used to describe the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is the word unprecedented. Unprecedented numbers of people being impacted either physically, or economically. Unprecedented levels of unemployment outside of the Great Depression. And unprecedented numbers of people who are turning to the emergency food network – including Second Harvest and its network of partner agencies – for help, many for the first time.

Recently, Feeding America (the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization) developed projections of the number of people who will continue to struggle with food insecurity long after states open their doors for business once again. The numbers are staggering, take a look:

  1. In the 16 counties served by Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin the number of food insecure people will jump from 1 in 12 pre-COVID, to 1 in 8
  2. Nearly 167,000 people are projected to be food insecure in southwestern Wisconsin; a jump of 61% since the pandemic

What these numbers tell us is that while the doors to hair salons and restaurants may be slowly opening up again, and furloughed workers are making their way back to their jobs, the elevated number of people facing hunger is not going away any time soon. Data suggests that in the past it has taken up to 10 years to bring food insecurity rates down to pre-downturn rates after a significant economic downturn has happened. If, as Shakespeare suggested, “past is prologue,” recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic will be a long-term challenge that will require long-term solutions…and long-term support to meet those challenges.

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