Food insecurity remains a major public health concern in Los Angeles County and appears to have worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, with communities of color affected the most, according to a county health department report released Tuesday November 30.
The report, entitled Food Insecurity in Los Angeles County / Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic, analyzes a wide range of data from 2018 to 2020.
The county was hit particularly hard economically during the pandemic, with unemployment rising to 19.4% in June 2020, up from 14.9% in the state and 11.1% nationwide.
“The loss of jobs and related incomes has contributed to increased food insecurity and deepening existing racial and economic inequalities caused by limited access to healthy food,” the report said.
The reports also note that while food insecurity, defined as limited or uncertain access to sufficiently affordable and nutritious food to lead an active and healthy life, has tended to decline until 2020, “profound racial and economic disparities in access and affordability price. healthy food has been preserved. “
Among the data highlighted in the 2020 report:
– 34% of all households in Los Angeles County with different incomes experienced food insecurity at some point between April and December.
– Hispanics experienced the highest rate of food insecurity (40%), followed by African Americans (39%), Asians (28%), and non-Hispanic whites (21%);
– Between 14.7% and 26.7% of Los Angeles County households were eligible for CalFresh but were not enrolled in the program as of July.
– People facing food insecurity were almost twice as likely to contract COVID-19 (11.6%) as those who were food insecure (6.4%).
Meanwhile, data for 2018 showed:
– Among households in Los Angeles County with income less than 300% of the federal poverty level (that is, income of less than $ 73,000 a year for a family of four), 26.8%, or 516,000 households, were food insecure.
– Households with children had a higher rate of food insecurity (28.1%) than households without children (26.1%).
– Among those living in food insecure households, 67.3% were Hispanic, 13.9% White, 11.9% African American, and 6.2% Asian.
– the rate of obesity (36.9%), type 2 diabetes (17%), arterial hypertension (30.4%), high cholesterol (30.4%) and depression (23.9%) was higher among adults living in food-insecure families than in food-eaters. safe households (29.6%, 11.8%, 24.2%, 25.6% and 8.4%, respectively).
“Food insecurity is a major public health concern as food insecure people face barriers to healthy eating and are at increased risk of many chronic nutritional conditions due to excess consumption of calories, saturated fat, salt and added sugars. “- the message says. “In addition, childhood food insecurity is associated with developmental delay, inability to concentrate at school and, as a consequence, decreased academic performance, anxiety and depression, and early onset of obesity.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the county’s director of public health, said the pandemic “exposed many of the existing deficiencies in our food system that impede access to affordable, healthy and nutritious food.”
“While many Los Angeles County residents faced food insecurity in the past year, low-income and communities of color continue to be disproportionately affected on an ongoing basis,” Ferrer said. “We must adopt innovative programs and policies to ensure a fairer, more sustainable and efficient food system.”
The report recommends a number of such strategies to reverse trends and improve food equity, including:
– understanding and considering the important relationship between food equity and racial justice;
– a shift in emphasis from “food security” to “food safety”;
– Implementing new strategies to increase participation in nutritional assistance programs such as CalFresh and the Special Complementary Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
– Investing in food recovery systems throughout Los Angeles County to increase food supplies and ensure food equity for all.
– Using County Social Services Data Sharing to Increase CalFresh and WIC Enrollment.
– support for a social protection program for undocumented persons and / or from households with mixed status.
– Engaging the health sector in scaling up food insecurity screening and patient involvement in nutritional care.