Researchers study link between pandemic and food insecurity among Travis County families

Travis County

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Research from Dell Medical School shows that before the pandemic, one out of every five children and one in four adults in Travis County were food insecure.

That means they had limited or uncertain availability of food.

A research team did a study of 645 families in the Austin area between April and August to learn how the coronavirus pandemic affected food insecurity. During the study’s 20-week timespan, Dell Medical School says an average of 47% of families were food insecure.

The team also says in May, when steps were taken to reopen the state’s economy, food insecurity went down, but peaked at 70% of families during July, when COVID-19 rates in the county worsened.

The families surveyed sought care at two CommUnityCare clinics, Dell Medical School says. The survey consisted of two questions about food and more on recent job losses and if they were using community resources.

Increases in food insecurity were most significant in the Hispanic community, the study says.

The study’s leader, Dr. Megan Gray, hopes the research will bring awareness to the ongoing problem among providers and families.

“The official definition is that limited or uncertain availability of foods. So it’s not just food running out, but it’s that uncertainty piece, gives it some mental health worries about food insecurity—that the anxiety and that chronic stress, it’s called a toxic stress, of always worrying about is there enough food,” Gray explained.

Gray led the study in conjunction with Community Care Health Centers. She says there is a direct correlation between the pandemic and food insecurity in Travis County.

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