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NCCU Study Finds High Levels of Hunger in North Carolina as Holidays Approach

NCCU Study Finds High Levels of Hunger in North Carolina as Holidays Approach

Many will share Thanksgiving with people outside their families despite public health warnings

courtesy of Ayana Hernandez ahernandez@nccu.edu

DURHAM, N.C.—North Carolina Central University researchers studying the impact of COVID-19 on North Carolina residents found that 17% have experienced at least one day without sufficient food supplies in the past week.

A statewide online survey conducted Nov. 17 through Nov. 22 also found that 20% of respondents had had someone in their household who was diagnosed with COVID-19, and almost 2% said someone in their immediate family had died of the illness.

“These results are extremely timely in realizing the severity of need in our state,” said S. Nicole Diggs, Ph.D., assistant professor of Public Administration at NCCU and a member of the research team.

The research team also found other major effects of the virus, with 32% of respondents reporting lost income due to COVID-19. Of households experiencing food insecurity, 60% had one or more children in the home. Nearly a quarter of respondents said that had sought food assistance since the start of the COVID-19 crisis.

“The impact of COVID is devastating, far beyond our health systems, even to our children’s place at the table,” said William Pilkington, D.P.A., director of the NCCU HOPE program working to address community health needs in central North Carolina.

Nearly 38% of respondents said it is somewhat or very unlikely that they could count on neighbors to shop for them if they became sick. Despite this, most respondents believe the risk of the COVID-19 disease is worse than the economic effects of a shutdown.

Additional findings from the survey indicated that 77.4% of households were planning or considering a shared meal with people outside their home on Thanksgiving, despite public health warnings that shared meals increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Only 22.6% of respondents do not plan to have a shared meal for Thanksgiving or other winter holidays.

“We know these are extremely difficult times for all families, and we all need support from our extended families and communities, yet the safest thing we can do is to not share a meal in-person this year,” said Christopher Paul, Ph.D., principal investigator on the food security study and an assistant professor of Public Administration at NCCU.

In order to reach a broad set of respondents, the researchers used a quota-based internet survey designed similarly to that used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to get rapid estimates of food insecurity. The demographics of the respondents represented the overall North Carolina population in race, income, and geography. The survey covered 97 of North Carolina’s 100 counties and included 1,345 respondents.

Dr. Deepak Kumar, director of the Julius L. Chambers Biomedical/Biotechnology Research Institute (BBRI), called the results a major call to action.

“These results, and the those of the overall Advanced Center for COVID Related Disparities (ACCORD) project at NCCU reveal the need for urgent action and coordination between communities, researchers, and local officials,” Kumar said.

The ACCORD Project is supported by the North Carolina Policy Collaboratory at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with funding from the North Carolina Coronavirus Relief Fund established and appropriated by the North Carolina General Assembly.



Study Contacts:

Dr. Christopher Paul, Food Security Research Project Principal Investigator, Assistant Professor of Public Administration, 919-260-0638, cpaul5@NCCU.EDU

Dr. S. Nicole Diggs, Co-investigator, Assistant Professor of Public Administration, sdiggs1@nccu.edu

Dr. William Pilkington, HOPE Program Director, 704-791-8873, wpilkington@NCCU.EDU

Dr. Deepak Kumar, Director Julius L. Chambers Biomedical/Biotechnology Research Institute (BBRI), dkumar@nccu.edu

References:

USDA ERS. https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-us/measurement.aspx

Ahn, S., Smith, T. A., & Norwood, F. B. (2020). Can Internet Surveys Mimic Food Insecurity Rates Published by the US Government?. Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, 42(2), 187-204.

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