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COVID-19 has taught everyone that finding what you need isn’t always easy. But for many, accessing essential items like food is more difficult in these difficult times.
If you need help, there are resources for you. And if you are able to provide for you and your loved ones, then there are practical steps you can take to help others in your community get the food they need.
That’s the message from IU Health Population Health project managers Jennifer Bradley and Raven-Seymone Johnson, who provide insight into the most vulnerable groups in need of food assistance during COVID-19. They also share some tips on what Hoosiers can do to provide support.
Bradley said those facing the greatest difficulties accessing food include:
Often the financial and health burdens these groups are experiencing has prevented them from being able to access the food they need, Bradley said.
Those with financial struggles often use food banks to help close their meal gap. But there is a strain on those services these days – more families need food support services, operational shifts to adhere to social distancing guidelines have reduced availability, and fewer volunteers are available to serve.
Individuals considered high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19 also face their own unique difficulties in getting food. Before the outbreak, a grocery errand was no issue.
“But they’re at such high risk that it’s no longer an option,” Bradley said. “They are trapped in their homes right now, and the grocery delivery is swamped.”
With the various shutdowns and social distancing guidelines, it can be hard to know what resources are available.
“We have seen a spike in people looking for food assistance resources on our tool,” said Johnson.
IU Health Connect has helped Hoosiers find free and reduced-cost services close to home. From free meal delivery services for the most vulnerable to fully stocked food pantries and programs, IU Health Connect is a free web tool that points users to comprehensive community resources needed to keep Hoosiers healthy.
Right now, it is more important than ever to support and serve the local community. There are plenty of ways Hoosiers can get involved while still practicing social distancing.
If you are in good health, consider delivering groceries to those who cannot leave their homes.
“If everyone took somebody they knew who’s having a hard time getting out and picked up a few things for them, that would do a lot,” said Bradley.
Bradley also encourages grocery shoppers to respect the limits put in place on items to ensure there is enough food available for everyone.
In particular, try to avoid stocking up on items with a WIC label (some WIC food items are unlabeled - see complete list).
If you are interested in volunteering your time or resources, food assistance programs are in a greater demand now than ever. IU Health Connect can also help potential volunteers find programs and services that are currently open and serving the community.
If you or a loved one is struggling to access food, please explore the following resources: