Giving Compass' Take:

•  Devon Klatell, writing for the Rockefeller Foundation, discusses how the coronavirus creates obstacles for communities that are food insecure.

• What is the role of donors in helping communities with food access? How can you help support the emergency food system?

• Read more about what donors can do about coronavirus. 

In recent days, photos of empty supermarket shelves have been trending on social media, and the makers of shelf-stable items like dried beans and soups have seen their stock price tick up. As confirmed COVID-19 cases grow in communities across the country, many Americans are heeding the advice of local officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by stocking up on food and supplies (and hopefully, washing their hands!).

Unfortunately, not everyone has the opportunity to take this precaution. Consider the nearly 40 million Americans who struggle with food insecurity. These households almost certainly don’t have the excess cash to stock up on groceries in case they need to isolate at home for extended periods. Think of the 30 million schoolchildren across the country who rely on school meals to fill their bellies twice a day, and the thousands of food pantries that rely on volunteers to distribute donations. And what about working families who cannot use their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to order food online? For these families, the relatively modest inconveniences many Americans will confront due to disruptions in the food system could have catastrophic consequences.

To ensure equity in our response to the coronavirus, here are four questions that government officials, employers, businesses and community leaders across the country should be asking themselves right now:

  1. How can we help low-income Americans stock-up on food?
  2. How will we feed students in need if schools close or transition to remote learning?
  3. How will we support our emergency food system – particularly food banks and pantries – during what may be a long-term strain?
  4. How will we ensure equitable food distribution, especially if we move to delivery-based retail models?

There is less coverage about the equally critical questions regarding how we ensure equity in access to food as our communities and our country continue to confront the coronavirus.

Read the full article about coronavirus and food access by Devon Klatell at the Rockefeller Foundation.