“The need right now is actually more than the height of COVID,” said Lisa Richardson, president and CEO of the Harvesting in Mansfield Food Bank in Texas. “We’ve actually increased 38%.”
Statewide, one in five children is experiencing hunger, according to Feeding Texas.
Rising prices are causing a new strain on families, some of whom have never before needed help like this.
“Most of them are a little bit desperate because they’re having to pay regular bills,” Richardson said. “If there’s a medical emergency, they’re having to deal with medications and those things, and so they don’t have extra funds for groceries.”
Courtney Allen is a wife and mom of two who had to visit the Mansfield Food Bank for the first time to provide meals for her family.
“It was never a problem before inflation hit,” she said. “You’re at the end of the week and you’re, like, ‘OK, there’s less food in here than there was a couple of weeks ago.’”
Allen has a 3-year-old son with autism, whose needs require a lot of family time and resources, including four therapies a week.
“It’s not just food prices (but also) gas, electric,” Allen said. “I know over the summer our electric bill was $500, which is an insane amount of money.”
The national outlook is also grim, with 12 million children not getting enough food, according to to Save the Children.
Food scarcity is highest in Louisiana, followed by Arkansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma and Washington, D.C.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, food insecurity rates rose worldwide, too, as incomes were reduced and food supply chains disrupted, the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition noted.
No Kid Hungry is a national campaign run by a nonprofit called Share Our Strength, which works to solve hunger and poverty. This month, No Kid Hungry announced it issued $280,000 in grants to 14 state chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics to improve food insecurity screening. The money will also help families get connected with federal programs SNAP and WIC.
“Addressing food insecurity in the early years is critical, and the role pediatricians can play in doing so cannot be understated,” Caron Greenmont, director of No Kid Hungry, said in a statement.
Richardson, who sees the need for hunger screening first-hand every day, says the grants are a crucial step toward overall health and destigmatizing hunger..
There are some things people can look out for when it comes to seeing if a child is food insecure, she added.
“For children, the signs of hunger are their irritability and they cannot pay attention,” Richardson said. “That’s almost the number one sign of hunger. For adults, it’s irritability and depression.”