Addressing Food Access During COVID-19 and Beyond
Prior to COVID-19, food security was identified as a priority community issue (Community Health Plan, 2019). In 2018, 15,220 residents (12.8%) in Douglas County were food insecure, including 3,650 children. The total households receiving SNAP benefits were 2,837 (6.13%) out of 46,294, with a $8,655,000 annual food budget shortfall (Map the Meal Gap, 2020; SNAP-Ed Assessment, n.d.). Feeding America has also released research on estimates of the impact of coronavirus on food insecurity. These numbers are less exact as they do not have all the data they normally use in calculating their Map the Meal Gap numbers. The projected 2020 food insecurity rate for Douglas County in 2020 is 18.1%, up quite a bit from the 12.8% number from the most recent data in 2018, and the 2017 number of 15.9%.
This crisis has increased unemployment, resulting in higher usage of food pantries and SNAP benefits. Community food access and nutrition are essential now more than ever. In collaboration with Douglas County and LiveWell, K-State Research and Extension created the Douglas County Food Resources List. This collaborative document shares community food resources available and can be found at https://tinyurl.com/ycsbso5h.
Our Extension team, including SNAP-Ed, FCS and 4-H Youth professionals, reached out to restaurants, schools, faith ministries, health and human services organizations, government organizations, food banks, and food pantries for new and existing resources. This comprehensive list is ever-changing and features free and discounted food available throughout Douglas County. It’s also available in Spanish, thanks to Laura Canelos, Bilingual Community Outreach at United Health Care. This Spanish List can be found at https://tinyurl.com/ycmfty3e.
Once created, it was evident that our Douglas County community is strong, resilient, and has adapted quickly in response to food access needs. Many local food resources have modified their procedures to fit CDC COVID-19 guidelines, such as social distancing and requiring masks. Food sites (including several restaurants) have also worked tirelessly to make accessing food more convenient and safer by having options for pre-ordering, delivery, Grab-and-Go, and appointment scheduling to access food safely.
To promote this resource, our team has created videos and posts shared on our K-State Research and Extension - Douglas County Facebook page (@KSRE.DouglasCounty), one post reaching 12,608 individuals, and gave presentations to other organizations about the resources featured on the list. SNAP-Ed Nutrition Educator, Cierra Smallwood, also created a promotional video(https://tinyurl.com/yyfllxe8) shared on the KSRE-Douglas County Facebook and the One Heart Ministries faith community. Additionally, Joel Becker, Host of KLWN’s Radio for Grownups, created a PSA (https://tinyurl.com/y6gpgvb7) to promote the Douglas County Food Resources List.
Douglas County is fortunate to have such a plethora of community food resources available and even luckier to have such a strong and supportive community. For questions regarding the food resource list or updates on the current sites, please contact Cierra Smallwood at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Community Health Plan. (2019). Retrieved September 03, 2020, from https://www.ldchealth.org/221/Community-Health-Plan
Map the Meal Gap. (2020). Retrieved September 03, 2020, from https://map.feedingamerica.org/county/2018/overall/kansas/county/douglas
SNAP-Ed Assessment. (n.d.). Retrieved September 03, 2020, from https://snaped.engagementnetwork.org/assessment/