Before the coronavirus pandemic hit Mississippi earlier this year, Lee County had seen a significant decrease in food insecurity.
“Our food insecurity rate was at about 16.2%,” said Jason Martin, the executive director of the Tupelo/Lee County Hunger Coalition. This figure is slightly higher than the food insecurity for the state as a whole, as the USDA found in 2019 that Mississippi had the highest rate in the country at 15.7%.
However, with the arrival of COVID-19 cases in the state, Martin said that several of the groups providing food and resources saw significant changes. In more rural areas with elderly populations, pantries saw a decrease in clients, which Martin said was likely due to the fear of catching the virus. Martin said that he had heard from people that they were too afraid to go to a food bank in person, and only relented when they ran out of food at home.