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As Food Insecurity Rises, Immigrants Step Up to the Plate

May 23, 2022

Food insecurity has been a serious and growing problem across the United States for several years, particularly in immigrant communities, which were also especially hard-hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

From New York to Texas, Idaho to California, immigrant families are facing higher levels of food insecurity than ever before.

A recent report found that 45% of undocumented immigrants living in California – many of them children – are food insecure, meaning they are without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of nutritious food. Food insecurity is particularly serious among children — about two in three undocumented kids go hungry, and nearly half a million undocumented adults in California live in a household struggling with food insecurity.

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Ironically, the problem even extends to farming communities, such as south Idaho, which largely rely on immigrant workers to pick crops for American markets. There are 3 million migrant and seasonal farm workers in the United States. The most food insecure counties in the country are rural, and workers in those communities face soaring food prices and a rapidly decreasing number of grocery stores, as corporate consolidation and rising real estate prices put smaller or local grocers out of business.

However, despite these worrisome numbers, there are programs and organizations working to help improve immigrant and vulnerable communities’ access to healthy, nutritious food.

In New York City, catering company The Migrant Kitchen was founded to give immigrant workers an opportunity to work in the restaurant industry at a fair, living wage. The company focuses on fusions of international cuisines, particularly between Middle Eastern and Latin cuisines. When the pandemic hit, the company pivoted to serving food to healthcare workers, and then expanded to feed immigrant communities and other food insecure people. The Migrant Kitchen now serves over 10,000 meals a day to people in need.

In California’s Bay Area, a Syrian immigrant started an organization, called Replate, to tackle both food waste and food insecurity at the same time. Replate works directly with businesses that have a surplus of food and nonprofits to decrease food waste by large companies or other groups, keeping that food out of landfills and getting it quickly to people who need it and can enjoy it.

As more nonprofit and mutual aid organizations step up to help people struggling with hunger, some states are also taking steps to improve access to nutritious food. Though some states strictly limit access to federal food programs like SNAP, other states are planning to expand access to their state level food programs.

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