How the pandemic has affected the strategies of fighting hunger

first_imgTCU places second in the National Student Advertising Competition, the highest in school history printCrisis at the food banksSchool lunch changesSNAP & the National School Lunch ProgramHow the pandemic has affected the strategies of fighting hungerHunger in America: Part 1By Haeven GibbonsThis report was compiled using reporting done by students enrolled in JOUR 30204 035/065, fall semester 2020. Working in teams, students explored the issue of hunger in America through the Fault Lines of class, generation, geography, gender, sexual orientation and race. They focused on Tarrant County, Texas.  The classes included: Charles Baggarly, Leah Bolling, Molly Boyce, Haley Cabrera, Connor Cash, Brian Contreras, Cole DeLuca, Larry Flores, Kaitlyn Freetag, Caroline Garland, Andre Giammattei, Haeven Gibbons, Logan Gibbs, Kiana Giddings, Stephanie Joynt, Ben Kasper, Samantha Knapp, Molly Kuhl, Shaina Looker, Lucie Lundquist, Hailey Lyon, Derek Lytle, Cole Marchi, Morgan McBride, Angelica Menjivar, Raines Nagel, Tyresa Oluyide, Joey Palmeri, Collin Pittman, Colin Post, Braden Roux, Oscar Saravia, Matthew Sgroi, Asia Soliday, Branisha Spincer, Sophia Stellas, Charlotte Tomlinson, Sophia Vandewark.Americans have struggled to address hunger for nearly a century. Now, as COVID-19 runs rampant across the nation, upward of 54 million Americans are projected to face food insecurity. As the battle to end hunger nears its 100-year mark, the issue is further from being solved than ever before. “Before COVID we saw, since the great recession, a decline in hunger to 10.1%,” said Jeremy Everett, director of the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty. “We were really moving in the right direction as a nation.” That growth, unfortunately, has been reversed by the COVID-19 pandemic.Hunger’s modern roots Hunger is a consistent policy issue at all levels of government. One of the first times that America took up the issue was during the The Great Depression era of the 1930s. “During the Depression there was so much hunger,” said Joel Berg, the CEO of Hunger Free America. “Before the Depression, there was no government hunger program whatsoever. No minimum wage programs whatsoever, and no school meals whatsoever.”Unemployment correlated with hunger in the 1930s as it does today. The rapidness of unemployment since March has contributed largely to the spike in hunger and poverty across the nation. “The people who were poor and hungry before, became poorer and hungrier,” said Berg. “And the people who were at the edge of poverty and hunger became poor and hungry.” Haeven G · Joel Berg on hunger since COVID-19The peak unemployment rate in 2019 was 3.7%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 35 million Americans were food insecure then, according to the USDA Household Food Insecurity in the United States Report. The peak unemployment rate in 2020 reached 15%, largely due to COVID-19. It is projected that 54 million Americans will have been food insecure in 2020.“Food insecurity commonly becomes a problem when people are laid off and have to make decisions on how they can spend their money- between paying utilities or feeding themselves and their families,” said Tarrant Area Food Bank Director of Marketing and Communications Michael Polydoroff.Crisis at the food banksThis rise in hunger levels caused the utilization of food banks to increase exponentially. The increased demand for their services also came as the COVID-19 pandemic surged across the country. The need to balance safety with a duty to help feed the hungry led to changes in how food banks operate. “The food banks had to rethink their entire workflow,” said JC Dwyer, who circulates organizational strategy and conducts civic engagement initiatives at Feeding Texas.Mainly, they had to make rapid changes to their traditional touch-based service model. The model involved food being passed through many hands before arriving to people in need, which became unfeasible during the pandemic. Food banks adapted to the changing circumstances by creating mass mobile distributions where food could be delivered directly to people’s car trunks.As they adapted to their new workflow, food banks also began to see different types of clientele that hadn’t usually utilized food banks before. “This year we started seeing a lot more people who, for the first time, had been thrown out of work,” Dwyer said. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)School lunch changesAs food banks changed their protocols, so did school lunch programs. Across the nation, schools locked their doors. For some students, this meant their main source of food was gone.Thirty million children depend on free or reduced-price meals from their schools for breakfast and lunch, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Out of those 30 million kids, only an estimated 15% are getting the meals they need since the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to close.During a nine-week period between March and May, it was measured that over 1.15 billion meals were not being served due to school closures.The National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program are federally assisted programs run by the USDA to provide children with low-cost or even free lunches during the school day. The programs were established in 1946 after President Harry Truman signed the National School Lunch Act. In 1971, the USDA made an amendment to the National School Lunch Program to make the program more effective in feeding hungry students. Since then, about 95% of students eat lunch every school day. Eating on a consistent basis has shown a positive impact on student performance, behavior and attendance. Now, the pandemic has derailed the programs, pushing schools and administrators to innovate new ways to keep kids fed. New programs popped up throughout the spring and summer to get food to students who couldn’t attend school. The USDA’s Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program transferred the value of meals students were missing and put them on debit cards or directly onto Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program debit cards. The P-EBT program kept roughly 2.5 million to 3.5 million kids out of hunger last spring, according to NPR. In Texas, families who were on SNAP before the pandemic did not need to apply for P-EBT. The deadline to apply for the 2020-2021 school year was extended to allow time for more families to receive the benefit, a sum of $285 per child in school who was or would be receiving free or reduced-price meals.Schools also had pick-up sites to allow no-contact meal services to children in the surrounding areas. In a survey of schools nationwide, it was found that 81% of schools were offering grab-and-go meals through pick-up sites, while 42% were delivering meals directly to student homes and 32% were using school bus routes to ensure students were fed.For the 2021 school year, the USDA waived previously required paperwork and allowed any student that wanted a meal to receive one. Schools are still compensated by the USDA, which is one of the ways they can afford to continue offering free or reduced-cost meals. Norma Ordonez places a tray of grilled cheese sandwiches into an oven to warm as she prepares take-away lunches for students kept out of class because of the coronavirus at Richard Castro Elementary School early Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, in west Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)In this Aug. 26, 2020, file photo, Los Angeles Unified School District students stand in a hallway socially distance during a lunch break at Boys & Girls Club of Hollywood in Los Angeles. California Gov. Gavin Newsom is encouraging schools to resume in-person education next year. He wants to start with the youngest students, and is promising $2 billion in state aid to promote coronavirus testing, increased ventilation of classrooms and personal protective equipment. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)Norma Ordonez prepares take-away lunches for students kept out of class because of the coronavirus at Rihard Castro Elementary School early Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, in west Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)Santa Fe Public School food workers Dolores Rodella and Eva Dominguez distribute lunches and breakfasts at a bus stop during the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Around 70 meals were picked up by parents along a delivery route that extends into the county. Students in this school district are learning online only. A recent decision from the USDA has extended funding for free meals, regardless of a family’s income level. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)Norma Ordonez places a tray of grilled cheese sandwiches into an oven to warm as she prepares take-away lunches for students kept out of class because of the coronavirus at Richard Castro Elementary School early Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, in west Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)In this Aug. 26, 2020, file photo, Los Angeles Unified School District students stand in a hallway socially distance during a lunch break at Boys & Girls Club of Hollywood in Los Angeles. California Gov. Gavin Newsom is encouraging schools to resume in-person education next year. He wants to start with the youngest students, and is promising $2 billion in state aid to promote coronavirus testing, increased ventilation of classrooms and personal protective equipment. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)Norma Ordonez prepares take-away lunches for students kept out of class because of the coronavirus at Rihard Castro Elementary School early Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, in west Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)Santa Fe Public School food workers Dolores Rodella and Eva Dominguez distribute lunches and breakfasts at a bus stop during the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Around 70 meals were picked up by parents along a delivery route that extends into the county. Students in this school district are learning online only. A recent decision from the USDA has extended funding for free meals, regardless of a family’s income level. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)Some districts provide meals for any student in the district as long as the school is area eligible. If there is a district where 50% or more of students are eligible to receive free meals, all the students will be served free or reduced lunch during the pandemic.In Tarrant County, there are 22 high schools with more than half of their students enrolled in the free or reduced lunch programs. The majority of these schools are located in the food desert areas of Tarrant County.Tarrant County has ­­­62 neighborhoods that the USDA deems areas with limited access to affordable and nutritious food and 11 zip codes that fall into the USDA’s definition of food deserts.USDA and FWISD fight HungerInfogramThe Tarrant Area Food Bank started an in-school pantry program last year as a way to combat hunger in Tarrant County.TAFB delivers 500-1000 pounds of food to designated Fort Worth Independent School District schools each month. The schools then distribute the food to families. “Different schools are set up different ways but they have, essentially, pantries within the school. They have closets or classrooms or under the desk pantries for their families,” said the TAFB Director of Agency Services Vicky Martinez.Additionally, FWISD had several distribution sites over the summer to provide access to free meals for students. There are over 25 sites located at elementary, middle and high schools.SNAP & the National School Lunch ProgramBefore the National School Lunch Program was established, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program was all families had to rely on to aid their hunger. When Franklin D. Roosevelt became the president in 1933, he began working on his New Deal to create government programs that would bring relief to the economic and hunger crisis that was the Great Depression. Roosevelt drafted the first form of SNAP, which is still the government program for hunger today. In 1939, the Food Stamp Program was the first government program that presented the idea of food stamps, creating the framework for how the U.S. would deal with a hunger crisis. While the programs laid a framework, Berg said that aid is still not easy to get for people who need it.“There are plenty of working people who make just too much, supposedly, to be able to get SNAP food stamps,” said Berg. “It is far harder for a low-income person to apply for SNAP than it is for many very wealthy people to pay their taxes. When you’re applying for SNAP you have to prove everything.”Haeven G · Access to federal programs like SNAPEven if someone qualifies for SNAP, the program does not take care of all his or her food needs. In 2020, the average SNAP benefit per person was $125 per month, which is about $1.39 per person per meal, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.In this Feb. 26, 2018, file photo, Carl Lewis in his market in Rankin, Pa. About half of Lewis’ customers pay with benefits from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)In this Feb. 26, 2018, file photo, Carl Lewis in his market in Rankin, Pa. About half of Lewis’ customers pay with benefits from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)Another part of Roosevelt’s New Deal was the Social Security Act. The SSA established a system that provided benefits such as unemployment insurance and aid for old-aged workers, dependent mothers and children, the blind and the physically handicapped.“The Social Security Act started by Roosevelt dramatically reduced senior hunger and poverty in America,” said Berg. By the end of the 1930s, the U.S. was phasing out of the Depression and into World War II. The war helped lift the county out of the Great Depression and “dramatically” reduced hunger and poverty in America by sparking economic growth. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program serves more than 4 million seniors, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Only 42 percent of eligible elderly individuals participate in SNAP, compared to 83 percent for all eligible people. The USDA has worked to decrease participation barriers for older Americans by simplifying the application and recertification processes and providing additional accommodations for elderly and disabled participants. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program serves more than 4 million seniors, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Only 42 percent of eligible elderly individuals participate in SNAP, compared to 83 percent for all eligible people. The USDA has worked to decrease participation barriers for older Americans by simplifying the application and recertification processes and providing additional accommodations for elderly and disabled participants. (AP Photo/Gene J. 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