The Jesuit Social Research Institute (JSRI) on Dec. 13 issued a new report on the realities of hunger and food deserts in Louisiana. Hungry at the Banquet: Food Insecurity in Louisiana 2018 reports that, in a state that celebrates rich and varied food traditions that are famous worldwide, there are many people without enough to eat. Researchers found that Louisiana has the second highest rate of food insecurity in the United States.
Authored by Kathleen J. Fitzgerald, Ph.D., the report focuses on 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 Fred Kammer, SJ, emphasized: “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.”
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.
A food justice movement emphasizes 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 Hungry at the Banquet 2018 also discusses the work of Second Harvest of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana and Sankofa Mobile Market in New Orleans.
Natalie Jayroe, President and CEO of Second Harvest said, “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."
The report was made possible by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. It continues the work of JSRI on hunger in Louisiana and the Gulf South and its February 2017 report SNAP Keeps Louisiana Strong and Healthy during Difficult Times.
JSRI is a collaboration between the Jesuits USA Central and Southern Province and Loyola University New Orleans. Based at the university, JSRI seeks to educate and advocate on issues of race, poverty and migration.