Loyola University New Orleans Jesuit Social Research Institute Report Reveals Scope and Depth of Hunger in Louisiana

BY ISN STAFF | December 19, 2018

A new report issued last week by Loyola University New Orleans’ Jesuit Social Research Institute (JSRI) centers around the realities of hunger and food deserts in Louisiana.

Hungry at the Banquet: Food Insecurity in Louisiana 2018 serves as a reminder that, in a state that celebrates rich and varied food traditions that are famous worldwide, there are many people without enough to eat. The condition is known as “food insecurity,” and Louisiana has the second highest rate of food insecurity in the United States.

Authored by Kathleen J. Fitzgerald, Ph.D., the report builds understanding around the scope of food insecurity, its causes and its cures, the realities of food deserts, and the nature of food justice. In his introduction to the report, JSRI Executive Director and member of ISN Board of Directors Rev. Fred Kammer, S.J., J.D., emphasizes: “Dr. Fitzgerald presents strategies for addressing food insecurity as part of the demands upon all of us—citizens and policymakers—to end the scourge of hunger in the midst of plenty in Louisiana.”

[Sankofa Fresh Market in the 9th Ward; Photograph by Kelsey McLaughlin]

Key findings report that Louisiana has the second highest rate of food insecurity in the nation and it is rising faster than in the rest of the country; Louisiana is replete with food deserts, places with a dearth of healthy and affordable food options, such as full-service grocery stores and/or farmers’ markets within a convenient travel distance; food insecurity in Louisiana, and around the nation, is being addressed, albeit incompletely, by three federal programs: SNAP, WIC, and the National School Lunch Program as well as some local initiatives; and the ways in which a food justice movement must emphasize equal access to food, ending structural inequalities to food access, specifically those related to race and racism, and an emphasis on a wider distribution of environmental benefits.

The report includes a number of maps showing food insecurity levels by civil parish within the state; food deserts by census tract in Louisiana; and food deserts by census tract within metropolitan New Orleans. The report also discusses the work of Second Harvest of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana and Sankofa Mobile Market in New Orleans.

[Sankofa Fresh Market in the 9th Ward; Photograph by Kelsey McLaughlin]

In reading the report, Natalie Jayroe, President and CEO of Second Harvest commented, “While we will always be here to respond to the need of any South Louisianan facing hunger —whether it is a child going to school hungry, an older person choosing between food and medicine, an oil and gas worker laid off from their job, or an entire community coping with a natural disaster — we are also increasingly focused on strategies that make a greater long-term impact, such as our oncology clinic pantry at University Medical Center and SNAP education and outreach efforts.”  

In her conclusion to the report, Dr. Fitzgerald commented, “Addressing food insecurity in Louisiana must be understood as a social justice issue of the highest priority, requiring attention from all levels of government, the business community, local activists, and the faith community.”

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