The coronavirus pandemic is disrupting many of the typical ways food assistance is provided to those in need while economic prospects for many Americans are rapidly deteriorating. A top priority for our nation’s emergency response should be figuring out how to feed those who already struggle with food insecurity and those who may be newly in need.

In some cases, experience from the Great Recession and lessons from recent efforts to improve outreach in federal nutrition programs and the food banking system offer ideas for a way forward. In other cases, we face new challenges that require creative thinking and rapid innovation between government, philanthropy, the nonprofit sector, and local communities.

Here are seven strategies that can inform immediate actions on national, state, and local levels.

  1. Protect existing SNAP coverage
  2. Expand SNAP benefits
  3. Maintain grocery and meal provision for seniors
  4. Maintain meal provision for students when schools close
  5. Adapt WIC to meet needs of infants and mothers
  6. Expand federal funding and donor support to food banks
  7. Communicate clearly

Even in the recent improved economy, more than 37 million Americans still struggle to afford an adequate diet. The convergence of ongoing need, disruption of typical assistance, and uncertainty about how many additional households will experience significant economic shocks makes it imperative that a comprehensive and nimble national plan for food security be put in motion immediately.

Read the full article about feeding the country during coronavirus by Elaine Waxman at Urban Institute.