(Above: Paige Milson, 2nd from right, preparing for a food distribution with Foundation Communities team in Austin, Texas)
The novel coronavirus pandemic is contributing to dramatic increases in food insecurity around the country and around the world. The scope of the crisis is vast, and the response must be proportionally broad: action and contributions from across all sectors will be needed to address the increased need. The Hunger Center’s network of fellows, alums, and partners are responding to food insecurity arising during the pandemic in many ways; the following are a few of the stories they have shared with us:
Current Hunger Fellows
Caroline George, currently placed with the Brookings Institution, co-authored a paper on COVID-19 and Unemployment Insurance (UI). UI offers income for employees suddenly out of work due to public health restrictions and a contracting economy, but the paper notes that many states’ UI systems were already insufficient to meet needs before the pandemic was declared. “The coronavirus has demonstrated that the U.S. needs a major overhaul and data system modernization effort for a wide range of safety net programs,” the paper notes. “This pandemic has made the weaknesses of the UI system obvious to many people, but they have long been a reality for displaced low-wage workers, part-time workers, people of color, or the long-term unemployed.” The paper concludes with suggestions to reform UI so it can perform its crucial safety net role.
Alexa Angelo, currently placed with RESULTS, wrote about the need for increased housing assistance for people who have lost livelihoods during the pandemic. “About 31 percent of Americans, or 1 in 3, do not think they will be able to keep a roof over their head if the U.S. falls into a recession,” she writes, highlighting the underlying widespread problem of housing insecurity. She also examines some policies which could help Americans hold on to their housing during the pandemic.
Hunger Fellow Alums
Blackstone Charitable Foundation
New York, New York.
(Emerson Hunger Fellow Alum ’06-’07)
“Blackstone is contributing $10 million to the New York State COVID-19 First Responders Fund, which will deploy emergency aid and resources where they are needed most. The fund will also support food, transportation and housing assistance for healthcare workers on the frontlines of the fight against the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Additionally, the firm is donating $5 million to organizations providing food security and resources for New Yorkers in need. City Harvest, World Central Kitchen, Great Performances and Slice Out Hunger are all working to provide meals for healthcare workers, first responders and other vulnerable populations. Contributions to our nonprofit partners such as Coalition for the Homeless, Union Settlement and Covenant House New York, among others, have helped provide critical support to at-risk communities affected by COVID-19. You can read the full announcement here.”
One Health Institute, University of California, Davis
(Leland Hunger Fellow Alum ’15-’17)
“The One Health Institute at UC Davis is supporting surveillance and laboratory teams around the world, providing technical assistance, knowledge sharing platforms and laboratory supplies for testing through the USAID-funded PREDICT and One Health Workforce-Next Generation projects. As a veterinarian with the institute, I’m working with our project teams to make sure information is clearly available and shared across many platforms including social media, our website, and informational webinars. On the frontlines of response around the world, our teams also have years of work in zoonotic disease surveillance and are working together to make sure another pandemic like this never happens again.”
Health Program Specialist
(Emerson Hunger Fellow Alum ’18-’19)
“We are an affordable housing organization with 23 properties in Austin and North Texas, and we provide free financial, health, and education services and programming. Right now, we are supporting residents and community members through food pantries and food box deliveries, social support, virtual tax preparation, financial coaching and planning, and connections to many other resources.
“I am providing food at the pantries, analyzing our data and tracking increases in pantry attendance, looking for grants, and creating materials and communications to get information to residents. I’m also helping coordinate projects that involve using residents’ art to promote health, volunteers calling seniors who live alone to check in on them, and a resident resource phone line where people can speak to our staff and get assistance.”
If you would like to support Paige’s work, Foundation Communities is accepting donations for its Emergency Assistance Fund here.
Are you a Hunger Fellow alum working on food security issues during the COVID-19 pandemic? We want to hear from you. Let us know using our form at bit.ly/chc-covid19-response.