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Pandemic amplies food insecurity rates in Cy-Fair BY DANICA LLOYD Health care employee Evyette Carr said she has been forced to cut back on work since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic because one of her children has a condition putting him at high risk. Both of her children are completing schoolwork from the family’s home in Coppereld, so Carr is spending more money on utilities and food. She said she has relied in part on an organization called Cy-Fair Helping Hands to put food on the table. “That was huge for me,” she said. “I’ve had all the kids here, so all of my utilities are doubled—the light bill, the water bill, the grocery bill. Getting that extra help is wonderful.” The Texas Workforce Commission reported nearly 12% of Cy-Fair’s population has led for unemploy- ment benets since mid-March. Nicole Lander, the chief impact ocer at the Hous- ton Food Bank, said higher unemployment rates have driven an increase in food insecurity—a term dened by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a lack of con- sistent access to enough food for a healthy life. According to statewide hunger-relief organization Feeding Texas, 14.8% of Harris County’s overall pop- ulation and 21.2% of its children were considered food insecure in 2018. Due to the pandemic, those numbers in 2020 are estimated to be 20.1% and 30.4%, respectively. Lander said the Cy-Fair area already had many families living on less than what is considered a liv- able wage, and the area was the rst regionally to see food distribution eorts surge this spring. “Anecdotally what we would hear … is both peo- ple in the house lost their job instead of just one,” Lander said. “So, it might be a brand-new SUV driv- ing in, but they were good wage earners and now have burned through their savings and need food assistance.” Financial strains Feeding Texas CEO Celia Cole said food insecurity is directly related to economic insecurity.
Experts said food insecurity is often a result of economic insecurity. With unemployment rates up in 2020, food insecurity is also expected to rise. SOURCES: TEXAS WORKFORCE COMMISSION, BUREAU OF ECONOMIC ANALYSIS, FEEDING TEXAS, TEXAS HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
Causes & effects of food insecurity
spike A in layoffs
insecuri ty food
Due to the economic decline brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and an oil and gas downturn, unemployment rates are exponentially higher in Harris County than they were last year.
Many low-income Harris County residents struggle to aord nutritious meals, and federal programs are not always enough.
UNEMPLOYMENT CLA IMS
Harri s County Food Insecuri ty Rates
60K 50K 40K 30K 20K 10K 0
Children Overall population
Snap el igibi l i ty requirements
MAX ANNUAL INCOME $20 , 616
MONTHLY BENEFITS FOR FOOD*
Nationally, grocery prices in 2020 have increased more than they would in a typical year. More Spending at the store
Cost change from January-June
*SNAP COVERS CERTAIN FOODS AND NONALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES
Food insecurity often leads to a poor diet, which can cause heart disease, obesity and other health conditions. Texans spend more per capita on health care costs than most other states. Added health care costs
Cereal and bakery products Meats and poultry Milk, dairy products and eggs Fresh fruits and vegetables
Additional health care costs annually experienced by food-insecure Harris County residents than food-secure adults
+$6B Additional annual health care costs
associated with food insecurity statewide
Texas’ national rank in additional health care costs associated with food insecurity per capita at $223 per person
of the cost of a nutritious, grocery store-bought meal in Cy-Fair is covered by SNAP benets.
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