Food giveaway

Manna ministries volunteers load up cars at a food giveaway at St. Luke-Simpson United Methodist Church, 1500 Country Club Road. Shortly before 9 a.m. when the giveaway was scheduled to begin, the line of vehicles waiting in line to enter was backed up for a mile on Country Club Road to its intersection with Lake Street.

“Food Security Insights,” a new tool and report released last month by UrbanFootprint, shows Louisiana is among the top five most food insecure states in the country. According to the report, nearly 20 million American households are food insecure, a trend that has grown 45 percent since the pandemic’s start last March.

Prior to the pandemic, 245,000 Louisiana residents reported not getting enough food to eat at some point in a given week. That trend has now risen by seven percent with 367,000 now reporting food insecurity.

In fact, second to only Mississippi, Louisiana faces the highest level of food insecurity in the country.

UrbanFootprint’s tool is designed to both track the national crisis of food insecurity and empower frontline agencies to better understand how the crisis affects their community.

Locally, United Way of Southwest Louisiana has been engaged in addressing food security since the pandemic’s first effects last March, Tami Chrisope, marketing and communications director, said. The non-profit began distributing hot meals and groceries and continued its food relief work in the aftermath of Hurricanes Laura and Delta.

Lines for the distributions remain packed, she said, a trend that clearly isn’t isolated to United Way’s events. “Think about all of these churches and groups that do food drives. Every one of them has people lining up hours before to pick up food. It tells you something.”

Chrisope said food insecurity affects a wide array of individuals, including those who are not working because Lake Charles’ economy has not nearly recovered from the compound effects of COVID-19 and the storms.

“There are still layoffs going on right now. We have whole places that are closed. People are out of work, have had their hours cut or had to take 20 percent pay cuts,” she said. “If you have kids and have to go buy groceries, think about what that means to have to cut something like that from your grocery bill. It’s pretty significant.”

To help provide relief to families and individuals, United Way of Southwest Louisiana will host a free, drive-thru grocery distribution at the Lake Charles Civic Center 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday, April 7. No registration is required to receive groceries. Volunteers are needed. To volunteer, visit www.unitedwayswla.org/volunteer

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