President’s Message: Hunger in a State of Plenty

A study recently issued by Loyola University New Orleans confirms what our staff and volunteers find to be true every day. Despite Louisiana’s rich food culture and reputation as a “foodie” destination, our state has the second highest rate of food insecurity in the nation – and it is rising faster than any other state.

The findings in the report, Hungry at the Banquet: Food Insecurity in Louisiana 2018, are stark. In most of Louisiana’s parishes, more than 15% of people are food insecure, and in some areas, the rate is as high as 34%. This is much higher than the average national food insecurity rate of 12%. One in four Louisiana families rely on SNAP (food stamps) to meet their monthly food needs, and a full two-thirds of these recipients are children.

Second Harvest is doing all we can to fill this food gap, but the results of this study are shocking. In a state that is celebrated for its food, many continue to struggle against hunger every day. And it is only getting worse.

A major factor is “food deserts,” places without convenient access to a full-service grocery store or farmer’s market.

Residents in these areas, often working families or seniors on a limited income, must choose between traveling long distances to purchase bare necessities, or going with unhealthy options like convenient stores and fast food outlets.

There is a direct link between food deserts and poor health. This vicious cycle of unhealthy options is contributing to our state’s high rates of diabetes, obesity, and hypertension.

While we will always be here to respond to the need of any South Louisianan facing hunger – whether it is a child going to school hungry, an older person choosing between food and medicine, an oil and gas worker laid off from their job, or an entire community coping with a natural disaster – we are also increasingly focused on strategies that make a greater long term impact, such as our oncology clinic pantry at University Medical Center.

Because of these challenges faced by so many of our neighbors, we are even more grateful for friends like you who make it possible for Second Harvest to provide more than 32 million meals a year. On behalf of those we serve, thank you for your compassion and generosity.

Sincerely, 

Natalie Jayroe
President / CEO, Second Harvest Food Bank

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