Pandemic increases food insecurity in Alabama

By Franchesca Fitts
Staff Writer 

Pre-pandemic United States projected the lowest food insecurity rates in the last 20 years, but since Covid-19 has hit the U.S., food insecurity has reversed improvements and numbers are similar to those of the Great Recession, according to Feed America.

Alabama is one of the highest food insecure states in America with 993,240 households affected. 

Even though food insecurity has always been a problem, Jean Rykaczewski, executive director of the West Alabama Food Bank, said that Covid-19 exasperated the problem.

Food insecurity is separated into two parts, short-term and long-term. Short-term food insecurity could be getting furloughed from a job at the beginning of the pandemic, but later returning to work and being able to afford food again.

Long-term food insecurity occurs in situations such as the only plant in your county closing and leaving you unemployed. Before COVID-19, the food bank distributed more than 17 million pounds of food and while serving more than 315,000 residents in nine counties. Since the pandemic hit, Rykaczewski said that the amount of distributed food increased by more than a million pounds. 

In addition to the increased demand, COVID-19 affected daily operations of the West Alabama Food Bank. It can no longer take volunteers, forcing the food bank to adopt creative ways to serve people. Rykaczewki said the food bank served “a line of 400 or 500 cars a day.” It also dealt with multiple staff members having COVID. 

Despite the increase in need, Rykaczewki said many counties served by the the food bank did not see a major increase in food insecurity. Many of the smaller counties like Sumter or Lamar already dealt with poverty and food insecurity before the pandemic. Places like Sumter and Lamar county already didn’t have many jobs, so the pandemic didn’t really close any jobs that already were not there. 

However, places like Tuscaloosa County experienced an increase in food insecurity as employers closed at least temporarily during the pandemic. 

Taylor Jones, a University of Alabama student, is one resident who experienced short-term food insecurity. While her hours were cut at Texas Roadhouse, a restaurant, she still had to pay her rent and provide food for herself.

“It was hard,” Jones said. 

  Aniyah Turner, a 20-year-old single mother, already knew this life. 

She was receiving government assistance before COVID-19 and that hasn’t changed in the midst of the pandemic. 

“My life hasn’t seen much change like I was already on food stamps and W.I.C. and my job (Publix) didn’t close, so nothing happened,” she said. 

Turner is technically already “food insecure” because she receives government assistance. 

Another similarity that Turner and those from Sumter and Lamar have in common is lack of education. Turner is a college dropout and like many in those counties it’s hard to get a good job when you don’t have the education for it. According to, Alabama is ranked 50th in terms of higher education and pre K-12. With better or more education, residents in Alabama could possibly get better jobs, and decrease food insecurity.

Food insecurity has been a problem in Alabama before and after COVID-19. With the lack of resources and education in the state those affected by food insecurity will continue to be.