ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) – One in eight people face food insecurity in the United States, but that number is much higher in Central Louisiana. The Central Louisiana Food Bank estimates about one in six in Central Louisiana experiencing food insecurity.
“Nearly 70,000 people in our parish 11 service area are food insecure,” said Linda Hutson, Director of Development and Community Relations at the Central Louisiana Food Bank. “It does not necessarily mean that they never have food, but it may mean that they do not have enough food for their next meal or do not know if they can feed their entire family.”
During the pandemic, the need for food increased and the local food bank worked tirelessly to meet that need. One challenge, however, was meeting the needs of those in rural communities.
“In the Alexandria-Pineville area, there is public transport. But for some people, that’s not going to work for them, “Hutson said. “Most of our service area is in rural communities where there is no public transport.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture tracks food insecurity data nationwide in its Food Research Atlas. Atlas uses census data to identify those with low incomes and their access to a supermarket. She found that a good portion of Central Louisiana residents live at least a mile away from a supermarket without access to transportation.
Hutson said transportation being a hindrance was something the food bank noticed and quickly worked to address. In fact, the food bank quadrupled the number of mobile distribution locations from five to 21.
“So a lot of our service area is in what they consider food deserts. They do not have a place to shop within a certain mile radius of where they live. “
She said mobile distribution sites are helping to fill the gaps by meeting communities that are not served directly where they are – by eliminating some of the transportation barriers.
Local businesses are also battling food insecurity in rural Louisiana. In June, Dollar General opened a store selling fresh fruits and vegetables in Libuse – an area that people had previously traveled miles to access fresh produce.
“Any food available near them like at a farmer’s market, Dollar General or some of the really local stores can help them get healthier food options for their families,” Hutson said.
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