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COVID-19 has led to increased food insecurity in North Texas, study finds

Food Bank 4 - Tarrant Area Food Bank workers distribute food at Herman Clark Stadium in Fort Worth.
Christopher Connelly
/
KERA News
A study involving 40 households in Dallas County found that many reported economic distress and food shortages.

A study finds the pandemic has made life more difficult for food-insecure households in North Texas.

For people who struggle to find enough food, the pandemic has been devastating.

UT-Southwestern researchers have been looking at how the pandemic has affected food-insecure families in North Texas. A study involving 40 households in Dallas County found that many reported economic distress and food shortages.

Sandi Pruitt, an associate professor at UT-Southwestern, says that food pantry clients have been experiencing increased economic hardship and psychological distress.

On what people in the study said about food insecurity:

Clients talked about economic distress and shortages.

They talked about having many more people in their home because of lockdowns and schools being closed and the pressures that put them under.

They also talked about increased food needs during this time, a lack of food in the stores, and they talked a lot about the mental burden and psychological stress as a result of this really historic time.

On the most common issues:

Frankly, we heard from most people that they were suffering from shortages of food.

At the conclusion of our study, despite getting food from Crossroads and from SNAP; seven out of 10 clients reported experiencing very low food insecurity.

That means they were actually eating less than they needed to eat. They weren't even able to substitute cheaper foods for the foods they couldn't afford.

All clients talked about struggling getting enough food, and several talked about crying and experiencing a lot of emotional distress as a result.

On how households are surviving:

I think there's some good news in the research we've done.

We heard directly from clients that changes to programs and policies really help them meet their needs. Many clients talked about how beneficial it was to have a slight increase in their benefits.

Many also talked about how it's helpful to get food through a drive-through food pantry, which is something new that the food pantry adapted as a result of the pandemic.

So I think the good news is that programs and policies have adapted to help meet the needs of these populations. But clearly, there are some needs that remain among the groups.

UT-Southwestern collaborated on the study with the University of Dallas and Crossroads Community Services.

Interview highlights were lightly edited for clarity.

Got a tip? Email Justin Martin at Jmartin@kera.org. You can follow Justin on Twitter @MisterJMart.

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