Louisiana faces epidemic of Working Hunger

Halen Doughty
Cars lined LA 3089 in Donaldsonville for hours the week before Christmas to receive free food for the holidays.

About 14 percent of working Louisianans suffered from food insecurity between 2014 and 2016, according to a report from Hunger Free America. The findings were based on an analysis of federal data and found that approximately one in 7 Louisiana residents worked but faced hunger.

The report ranks Louisiana third in the country for the rate of working people who struggle with food insecurity, at 24 percent. Nearly 275,000 working Louisianans wonder where their next meal will come from.

The problem doesn’t end with the working poor. Seniors and children also struggle with food insecurity. One in 12 Americans over 60 is food insecure, according to the report. Louisiana ranked first in the nation for hungry seniors, at over 14 percent. Louisiana almost topped the list for the rate of food insecurity among children. The state ranked second with 24 percent of Louisiana children facing hunger.

Local food banks are working to combat the problem in Ascension Parish. The BackPack Program recently handed out backpacks filled with food to needy children at area schools. The program helps ensure that children who receive reduced-price or free school lunches don’t go hungry over the extended holiday break. The bags were distributed through a mobile food pantry at Donaldsonville Primary School last week after BASF in Geismar made a $25,000 donation to the Baton Rouge Food Bank.

"Our donation is funding the delivery of backpacks filled with food on a weekly basis throughout the school year to help students and families in need," BASF Senior HUB Manager Jolen Stein said. "The food is distributed in the backpacks to hundreds of students on Fridays to take home for the weekend. In addition, we sponsored the mobile food pantry that helped feed 300 families for the holidays. The two programs are separate. We hope to grow these programs and encourage other corporations to sponsor throughout the parish."

The high percentage of people who struggle to put food on the table is costing federal dollars. The federal government spent over $91 billion on nutrition assistance in 2016. The report found Louisiana received the second most food assistance funding per capita, totaling nearly $2 billion in the 2016 fiscal year.

Food banks are essential to filling the gaps of federal assistance. Many Ascension Parish families will have holiday meals on their tables thanks to local food pantries. The St. Theresa of Avila Catholic Church Food Pantry in Gonzales stays busy throughout the holiday season to make sure no one goes hungry during the holidays. Bags filled with $50 worth of food are handed out to residents, who also receive a turkey for their Christmas dinners.

Nationwide, hunger affects 41 million Americans, including 13 million children. About 15 million working adults in the country cannot afford an adequate supply of food. Nearly 35 percent of food-insecure Americans are employed adults, according to Hunger Free America.

The study, “Working America’s Still Hungry” National Hunger Report is available on Hunger Free America’s website,, through which anyone can also donate or volunteer, or find food if they need it.

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