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Food Insecurity

It’s different from just being hungry
Sunday, July 25, 2021

There’s a difference between food insecurity and just being hungry.

Hunger is a feeling that everybody gets no matter how much food they have or can afford to buy. Food insecurity, as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is the lack of consistent access to enough food to live an active, healthy life.

“Food insecurity is a measure of the risk of hunger,” Jean Toth, executive director of the Food Bank of Northeast Louisiana, said.

According to an article written by U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, people experiencing food insecurity may consume a nutrient-poor diet that, in turn, could contribute to obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases.

“Food insecurity represents a ‘nutrition quality gap,’ essentially a health inequity that we must address if we hope to reach our nation’s targets for achieving healthful diets and reducing chronic disease,” Murthy wrote.

Almost 19% of Lincoln Parish residents are food insecure, according to the Food Bank for Northeast Louisiana.

“We have really dire hunger statistics in North Louisiana, in general,” Toth said.

And though food insecurity is usually associated with low-income situations, Murthy’s research found that’s not always the case.

“Some households have episodes of food insecurity, or even very low food security, despite having annual incomes higher than 100% of the federal poverty level,” he wrote.

Representatives of agencies working to lessen food insecurity in Lincoln Parish say the rural nature of the area and the lack of employment opportunities offering livable wages are the top two factors to the inability to get food.

COVID-19 hasn’t helped the situation.

In 2019, the food insecurity rate in Lincoln Parish was 18%, according to the nationwide network of food banks, Feeding America. By this year, that number was up about a full percentage point.

Louisiana ranks third overall for projected food insecurity this year, when compared to 2019 and 2020.

Stephanie Matthews, director of Ruston’s Christian Community Action, said job losses caused by the pandemic and cutbacks in workers’ hours have driven up the food insecurity.

But the number of people CCA helped was higher pre-COVID. That’s because people stayed home, often because they didn’t have adequate insurance to seek treatment if they contracted COVID, Matthews said. They didn’t come get food, either.

CCA offers crisis help in a number of areas, including food. The agency serves about 100 families — that’s roughly 350 people — per month with food assistance.

But “even the food that we give is not enough food to last them a month,” Matthews said.

Toth predicts the pandemic will have a long-term effect on recovery from food insecurity, particularly for low-income households.

“When COVID hit, it was such a game changer,” she said.

People who live paycheck-to-paycheck, as well as seniors on fixed incomes, are especially in a potential pinch.

“One unexpected expense can really set somebody back,” Toth said.

Or one unexpected natural disaster. During the fiscal year 2021, the food bank partnered with the city of Ruston four times to distribute food; first, in the wake of Hurricane Laura, then the pandemic and finally the back-to-back winter storms.

The agency doled out 112,300 pounds of food and served about 500 households at each distribution, Taylor Costa, FBNELA’s marketing and communications officer.

Toth anticipates food insecurity will increase now that the extra unemployment benefits tied to COVID have stopped. The increase in the new cases of COVID and their potential effect on the economy, coupled with families’ pending back-to-school expenses, stand to also push food insecurity higher, Toth said.

“One of the things that COVID has highlighted, the face of hunger really can be a next-door neighbor, a family member, somebody you sit next to at church. Hunger is a very personal issue. Sometimes you don’t know how people are doing,” Toth said.

She has one plea: “If you’re having a hard time, please call the food bank, find a local program, let us help you.”

Here’s a list of some of the local programs available. Most work either in partnership with the FBNELA or the area United Way. Some are food pantries and some provide meals.

When going to a pantry for the first time, the food bank says you should bring a photo ID and proof of income.

That proof came be an SS/SSI determination letter, Food Stamp print out, check stub, etc.

— Zion Traveler Baptist Church

1201 Martin Luther King Ave., Ruston

Phone: 255-0552

Distribution time: 3 rd Saturday, 10 a.m.-noon

Food pantry

— Lend Helping Hand for Jesus

156 Norris Ave., Choudrant

Phone: (501) 499-2865

The group also has a Facebook page.

Distribution time: 3 rd Saturday, 3-5 p.m.

Food pantry

— Lewis Temple

301 Main St., Grambling

Phone: 247-6681

Distribution time: 3 rd Thursday, 1-3 p.m.

Food panty

— Christian Community Action 108 South Bonner St., Ruston

Phone: 251-3282

Distribution: Monday-Friday quarterly, 9 a.m. – noon

Food pantry

— Food Bank of Northeast Louisiana Senior Program. This program is for people age 60 and over and is income based. Participants receive a box of groceries each month.

About 70 Lincoln Parish seniors are enrolled in the program. To apply, contact the food bank at 322-3568.

— Dubach Senior Center

177 Main St., Dubach Phone: 777-3456

Phone: 777-3456

Services offered: Senior Center Meals on Wheels, congregate meals.

Call for meal information.

— Humanitarian Enterprises of Lincoln Parish (H.E.L.P.)

307 North Homer St., Ruston

Phone: 251-5138

Services offered: food bank-commodities monthly, emergency food bank, food for seniors age 60 and over. Call for an appointment and eligibility requirements.

— Lincoln Parish Council on Aging

1000 Saratoga, Ruston

Phone: 255-5070

Services offered: Senior Center congregate meals, home delivered meals.

Office open 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday. Call for information

— Lincoln Parish Office of Economic Stability (through the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services)

811 North Service Road East, Ruston

Phone: Toll free – 888-524-3578, business line – 251-4106

Food-related services offered: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) - provides monthly benefits that help low income households buy the food they need for good health. For more information visit website:

— Presbyterian Church of Ruston Lunch On Us (partnership among the PCR, Trinity United Methodist Church and Cook Baptist Church)

212 North Bonner St., Ruston

Phone: 255-2542

Sack lunches, Mondays and Wednesdays, 11 a.m.

No eligibility requirements; open to everyone.

— Boys and Girls of North Central Louisiana Summer Food Service Program. Meals will be provided to all eligible children without charge.

Acceptance and participating requirements for the program and all activities are the same for all regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA, and there will be no discrimination in the course of the meal service.

Meals will be provided at the sites and times as follows:

• Boys & Girls Clubs of North Louisiana, 300 Memorial Drive, Ruston, through July 30, Monday through Friday, breakfast from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. and lunch from noon to 1:30 p.m.

• Greenwood Recreation Center, 1306 Cornell St., Ruston, through Aug, 13, Monday through Friday, breakfast from 9 to 10 a.m. and lunch from noon to 1:30 p.m.

• Mt. Harmony Day Camp, 222 Mt. Harmony Church Road, Ruston, through Aug., 13, Monday through Friday, breakfast from 9 to 10 a.m. and lunch from noon to 1 p.m.

• Mays Chapel CME Church, 513 W. Line Ave., Ruston, through July 30, Monday through Friday, lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

• Lincoln Family Housing, 105 Greene Lane, Ruston, through Aug. 13, Monday through Friday, lunch from 1 to 2 p.m.

• Westwood Family Houston, 596 College Ave., Grambling, through Aug. 13, Monday through Friday, lunch from 11 a.m. to noon.