Giving Compass' Take:

• Brenda Solórzano and Erin Switalski discuss the importance of getting food to rural communities suffering from food deserts during the pandemic.

• How does getting food to rural communities impact marginalized populations? What can we do to help prevent food deserts across the globe throughout the pandemic?

• Find out how you can fund efforts to get food to rural communities during the public health crisis.

As a foundation focused on the social and economic barriers to health, food insecurity has always been important to us. According to Feeding America, one in ten people and one in six children face hunger in our state. The Montana Food Bank Network states that more than half of Montana’s counties have areas that are considered food deserts.

As COVID-19 hit, we began receiving calls and emails from grantees and food security leaders about the increased need for food across the state. Many Montanans suddenly found themselves without a stable source of income, looking to local food pantries, churches, and other service organizations to help feed their families. As the state shut down, grocery stores began to run out of food, and now had nothing to donate to local food banks. In response, our foundation increased our outreach to local and state food leaders, developed an understanding of critical food security issues, and created a rapid response plan to deploy resources into the hands of community leaders who could ensure that hungry families were not left in peril.

We are still far from success. Childhood food insecurity in Montana may be as high as 26 percent in 2020; in some rural counties with limited economic opportunity, it could be as high as 41 percent. We know that counties with high populations of American Indians will almost certainly suffer higher rates of food insecurity. As we forge ahead, we are convening funders in our state who are interested in collectively responding to this persistent issue to ensure the needs of our rural communities are met via investment in homegrown and upstream systems change efforts.

Read the full article about getting food to rural communities by Brenda Solórzano and Erin Switalski at Grantmakers In Health.