EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Several neighborhoods in El Paso County have limited access to food pantries and community services due to social barriers.
Barriers can include lack of transportation, disabilities, lack of time and resources among single-parent households, difficulties navigating food benefit options due to language and literacy barriers, and/or fear of repercussion based on immigrant status. a release said.
According to a release, 22.5% of children in Texas were food insecure before COVID-19, despite supports like the National School Lunch Program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and area food banks.
Many more children are now facing food insecurity due to school closures and increasing unemployment caused by COVID-19, which means children are likely receiving one or two fewer meals a day.
Steps are being taken at the local, state, and federal levels to combat food insecurity.
The USDA Food and Nutrition Service has extended SNAP benefits to those who are up for renewal, and states now can waive meal pattern requirements with the Child and Adult Care Food Program, the National School Lunch Program, and School Breakfast Program.
At the same time, school districts, food banks, and other safety net providers are finding innovative ways of serving children and families. Supply of non-perishable food and outlets for distribution, however, continue to be factors that limit the number that can be helped. Nonprofits, community leaders, district leaders and food pantries are joining forces to ensure they reach all children and families in need, a release said.
The map below shows several neighborhoods in El Paso County that are experiencing food insecurity for their students and families.
Map 2 shows the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index (SVI), an indicator of vulnerability during crisis.
For families who cannot leave their homes, visit the El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank site for resources available. Support is available in English or Spanish at https://elpasoansfightinghunger.org/need-help. For families able to venture out, TEA is monitoring free school meal pickup locations here: https://txschools.gov/.