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Food insecurity’s long-term health consequences after hurricane, pandemic

Published: Oct. 7, 2021 at 5:29 AM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Food insecurity affects millions of people in the U.S., including many here in the Capital Region. The American Heart Association said the pandemic and hurricane recovery have only added to this problem, causing more hunger and poor nutrition.

The Captial Area American Heart Association is working to bring awareness to this issue. Dr. Tiffany Ardoin, President-Elect for the Capital Area American Heart Association Board and Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at LSU Health Baton Rouge, said many households with food insecurity cannot get enough food because of lack of money or other resources.

She said with the impacts that COVID-19, and now two tough hurricane seasons, has had on our region, one in three people in Greater Baton Rouge are not getting enough food each day. That includes not getting the nutrients they need, also known as nutrition insecurity.

“It’s really important in Baton Rouge because there’s a 13% incidence of food insecurity, and that’s higher than the national average and especially after COVID-19 and the recent hurricanes, that’s only becoming a higher percentage,” said Ardoin. “Food insecurity is directly related to hypertension, diabetes.”

Without access to affordable healthy foods, a nutritious diet and good health are out of reach for many in our community. As a result, poor diet-related diseases like diabetes and obesity are on the rise among children.

Ardoin said the stress of food insecurity is a risk factor on its own. In the Baton Rouge area, more than 79% of adults over 18 are consuming less than five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

An American Heart Association scientific statement released this year said the stress of food insecurity can contribute to poor health behaviors, such as smoking, unhealthy eating and physical inactivity, linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

Financial barriers to medical care mean many food-insecure people are often diagnosed much later, when a disease may already have progressed.

The AHA is urgently working to create equitable health and improve nutrition security by partnering with the City-Parish of East Baton Rouge Mayor-President’s Healthy City Initiative (HealthyBR) to create the Geaux Get Healthy initiative.

The Geaux Get Healthy initiative is working to increase community access to healthy and affordable foods to the greatest areas of needs - especially for those with both financial and transportation access barriers. Through efforts like AHA’s mobile kitchens giving community cooking demonstrations along with the Healthy for Life® curriculum, community gardens, mobile markets, and Makin’ Groceries with Top Box (home food delivery/corner stores), we will have the opportunity to build improvements in food security and measurable health outcomes.

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