COVID-19 and Food Scarcity/ CHEER’s Response
Is Montgomery County still reeling from the effects of COVID-19? What has been CHEER’s Response to Food Security in Montgomery County?
COVID-19 has had lingering effects on communities across the US. Furthermore, we now see that it has resulted in more significant socioeconomic issues in areas as simple and generally sustainable as food. A study by Julia A. Wolfson and Cindy W. Leung of the Department of Health Management and Policy, University of Michigan School of Public Health, found that as much as 44% of low-income persons across the United States are food insecure. Since 2020, communities throughout the DMV area have developed innovative food distribution best practices to continue serving those at risk of hunger. As the pandemic intensified, employment decreased, leaving people, particularly those of lower socioeconomic statuses, in food hardship since they couldn’t afford nutritious food. This mainly affects people of color, women, single mothers, undocumented immigrants, and people with lower-salaried or wage jobs.
Covid-19 has exacerbated food insecurity in parts of Montgomery County. How has Community CHEER responded to this urgent and persistent need? CHEER has risen to the challenge when called upon by the county since June 2020 to implement a consistent and stable food distribution initiative for the most vulnerable members of our community. We have provided a sustainable source of healthy foods for approximately 400 community members every week until August of 2022, and currently, twice per month. The majority of the population that we help is from the Hispanic and Ethiopian communities. Since they are culturally different, we cater to their needs by providing healthy and culturally appropriate foods as much as possible.
We have also extended our reach to food recipients by assisting those who are eligible to apply for food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Our community health workers are able to make applications for those who have major barriers to utilizing this program, such as language and technology
Gladly, having a weekly food distribution opened the space for community members (youth and adults) to step up and partner with us, helping with different roles. Consistently, even suffering inclement weather, they have been a critical partner in each distribution. Besides the SSL hours that students gain, they are learning how to be part of the solution to community problems. At the same time, their interaction with diverse groups of adults and youth is helping develop their interpersonal skills.
More than two years of experience with the COVID-19 pandemic have taught the community a lot about resilience: what makes us stronger, safer, and more adaptable. The choices we make today, how to engage and participate, and how we choose to lead us forward will have long-term implications not just for vulnerable populations but for our overall health and survival.
Leung, C. & Wolfson, J. (202, June 2). Food Insecurity and COVID-19: Disparities in early effects for US adults. Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/6/1648