Addressing food insecurity in NELA

Published: Nov. 10, 2023 at 4:05 PM CST
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MONROE, La. (KNOE) - On Thursday, Nov. 9, the city of Monroe made steps toward addressing food insecurity in the region. The Boy Scouts of America kicked off its 36th annual food drive, and south Monroe celebrated the groundbreaking of a new fresh food grocery store.

Taylor Costa, the marketing and Communications Officer for the Food Bank of Northeast Louisiana, said they feed about 25,000 people in the region each month.

“We have some of the worst poverty and hunger statistics in the country,” Costa said. “Hunger is a real issue, and there is also no face to hunger, so it can be anyone.”

According to Feeding America, In Louisiana, an average of 21.6% of children are food insecure. In Ouachita Parish, 22.5%, Madison Parish, 36%, and East Carroll Parish, almost 43%.

Monroe Mayor Friday Ellis said the lack of healthy food available to communities also plays a major role in food insecurity.

“When our children don’t have access to fresh produce or quality foods, it affects the way that they live, it affects their health it affects the way that they learn when they come to schools,” Ellis said.

According to the state food bank association, roughly 1 in 7 people in Louisiana struggle to provide a healthy meal for themselves or their household.

Councilwoman Kema Dawson said the south side of Monroe has gone without a local fresh food grocer for 20 years. But, in February of 2024, that will change with a new dollar general market currently under construction on Jackson Street.

“This is definitely a food desert solution,” Dawson said.

Dawson said the addition of the new dollar general market will help communities access the nutrition they need.

Mayor Ellis said the city will continue its efforts to minimize food insecurity in Monroe and in Northeast Louisiana.

“It’s very important that they have convenient options, they have quality food options and that our residents also see development in communities that have been disinvested for years,” Ellis said.