The following is an excerpt from an article posted in the in  Aug 2020: 

“Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed a trend that many had hypothesized; COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has had a disproportionate impact on minority communities. The statistics indicate that Latino and African-American residents are three times as likely as white people to become infected with COVID-19, and twice as likely to die from it.

Among Hispanics younger than age 65, the COVID-19 death rate was 35%. For non-white, non-Hispanic people, the death rate from the disease stood at 29.5%. Both rates are substantially higher than the 13.2% rate among white people under age 65.

What government data also points out is both groups are most likely to suffer from food insecurity stemming from COVID-19, particularly children. A recent study by Northwestern University using Census data found that 4 out of 10 Black and brown families are struggling to feed their families. They’re twice as likely to struggle than white families, a disparity that one of the study’s authors described as “appalling.”

Needless to say, such disturbing trends cannot continue. To help stem this problem, Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA), a nonprofit humanitarian and advocacy organization that works in North Jersey, has awarded grants of $12,000 each to some 49 partners —mosques, social services agencies, food pantries — to assist in providing food security, financial assistance, and personal protective equipment. Among the recipients are Oasis-A Haven for Women and Children in Paterson and the Palestinian American Community Center in Clifton. Together, more than 2,000 people will be provided meals to help them get through a rough patch.

Some of the rampant transmittance in minority communities could be tied to lifestyles that are more common among these demographics, making them increasingly vulnerable to contracting the coronavirus. For one, data shows that people from both groups are more likely to work in jobs where telecommuting is not optional.

Labor Department data shows just 29% of all jobs could be worked remotely. And many of the jobs that require people to be at their workplace and have frequent interaction with customers — largely those in the service and manufacturing sectors — the portion of Black and brown people that make up the workforce in those industries is 43%.

And, Black and brown households are more likely to live in relatively tight spaces, making it difficult to practice social distancing and have ample ventilation. The American Housing Survey, for one, found that Latino households are twice as likely to live in a crowded household (less than 500 square feet) than their white counterparts.

Since the pandemic, the food insecurity rate among Black households with kids has ballooned from 25% to 39%. Among Hispanic households, it has more than doubled from 17% to 37%. This is not to say that white households were immune to the socio-economic impact of the pandemic, as 22% of them have insufficient food. But here again, there’s a wide disparity.

In Passaic County, and particularly in Paterson, the rates of food insecurity had been above average for some time. A 2017 report by the Passaic County Food Policy Council found that 32% of Southern Passaic County and 45% of Paterson residents were food insecure, based on 2016 data. With the current pandemic, those numbers have likely gone up significantly. Anecdotal data suggests an uptick in people who need meals.

The additional Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits that had been provided as part of the federal CARES Act had been helpful, but that package expired at the end of July. Proposals to increase the SNAP allotment deserves support, as more funding will enable more people, especially kids, from going hungry.

During times of crisis — and the pandemic certainly qualifies as one — a people and nation are judged on how they protect those who are most vulnerable. A quarter of all households exhaust their SNAP benefits within a week of receiving them, and more than half exhaust those benefits within the first two weeks. The economic consequences of COVID-19 have increased unemployment, reducing available opportunities to secure income for millions of people.

IRUSA calls on Congress to take swift action to increase SNAP benefits, and to suspend any rules that would prohibit access for families in need. More people will rely on SNAP for the time being to fulfill their nutritional needs, especially with the number of COVID-19 infections on an unfortunate upswing in many states. It’s imperative that we do our best as a nation to ensure the food security of our most vulnerable communities.”


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