I don’t know about you, but I LOVE food. I love the flavors. I love the textures. I love learning about how all the different compounds work together to nourish our bodies. It’s why I decided to pursue a career in nutrition and public health.
This love of food is also a pretty big reason why I do NOT handle being hungry very well. Hangry Sara is not a nice person to be around. I get distracted, grumpy, and stressed out over even the most mundane problems. I’ve been incredibly fortunate in my life thus far to only find myself feeling this way on a short-term basis- usually because I forgot to go grocery shopping or pack a snack for my workday.
Unfortunately, millions of Americans are finding themselves in a position of food insecurity. This goes far beyond my hangry feelings from forgetting a snack. Food insecurity — defined as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life — is stressful and typically comes during a time when individuals, parents, and children are facing significant additional challenges. It leaves families in frequent positions of uncertainty, and it can have lasting health implications. Food insecurity affected more than 1 in 10 US households in 2019. This equals more than 35 million people, including nearly 11 million children. Then COVID-19 happened. Millions of people lost their jobs, and households that had never worried about paying for food found themselves struggling to make ends meet.
According to Feeding America, the number of Americans facing food insecurity in light of the pandemic could escalate to more than 50 million people, including 17 million children. This is about on par with the 17.2 million children who faced food insecurity during the Great Recession. This means about 15 million more people in need of support, including 6 million more children, many of whom were unable to attend school in person in 2020, the source of free and reduced school breakfast and lunch.
There is a good chance you are among these millions of food insecure people. Alabama has taken steps to address food availability at multiple levels in our food system, but we are expected to rank 3rd in the nation for percent of food-insecure households following 2020. You may have found yourself in the position of navigating the myriad of resources for food-insecure households, ranging from major state and federal programs to small local food pantries. Because of COVID-19, many support programs have had to change times, locations, and procedures for operations. Individuals facing food insecurity already experience significant stress; figuring out the locations, hours, and eligibility for various food resources shouldn’t add to their challenges.
That’s why End Child Hunger in Alabama (ECHA) launched the ECHA County Food Guide Project. Through this initiative, dozens of ECHA County Ambassador volunteers have come together to provide Alabama families with comprehensive and updated information about local food resources. By visiting the ECHA County Food Guide website, you can simply click on your county to view a list of resources in your area. Each county guide includes food supports such as child nutrition resources, senior nutrition resources, food pantries, soup kitchens, farmers’ markets, SNAP resources, WIC resources, grocery stores, and many others. Every week, ECHA County Ambassadors work together to update information as COVID-19 restrictions change and operating details are altered.
Food insecurity was an issue for many Alabamians long before COVID-19 came along. We hope the ECHA County Food Guides can increase access to food resources and reduce the stress on Alabama families during this pandemic and after things start to return to “normal”. If you’re facing food insecurity, we want you to know you’re not in this alone. I encourage you to check out the ECHA County Food Guide to see what resources are available to you and your family.
Looking for food resources in your area? Check out the ECHA County Food Guide Project at aub.ie/foodguides.
Do you know of a food resource that isn’t currently listed in the food guides? Let the ECHA County Ambassadors know!
Graduate Research Assistant
Sara is a graduate research assistant for the Hunger Solutions Institute at Auburn University and is pursuing a PhD in Community Nutrition. In her work at HSI, Sara helps to support End Child Hunger in Alabama (ECHA), a statewide network of community and state level leaders to address the critical issues of hunger and food insecurity facing Alabama’s children and youth. In this work, she focuses primarily on college student food insecurity and works closely with the Alabama Campus Coalition for Basic Needs (ACCBN) to support college and university leaders to eliminate food insecurity among students.
In her free time, Sara loves to spend time outside. She loves hiking, and her idea of “going for a walk” usually involves walking 5 or 6 miles. She also loves food and enjoys any opportunity to cook or enjoy food alongside family and friends. Currently, she is living her best life of spreadsheets and organization galore while she plans her wedding to her fiancé Leo. Sara also loves to travel and has spent time in South Africa, Ecuador, Cuba, Fiji, and more. She can’t wait for the COVID-19 restrictions to be lifted, so she can get back to safely enjoying the geography and cultures of people around the world.