COVID-19: Nutrition is More Important than Ever

COVID-19: Nutrition is More Important than Ever

Box of fresh produceEvery day brings new revelations about COVID-19, including more research on the strong correlation between a poor diet and poor COVID-19 outcomes. The Food Bank has always sought to address the well-documented link between food insecurity, malnutrition and poor health by dramatically increasing the amount of fresh produce and vegetables we distribute to clients and through robust public education nutrition programs for children and adults. That work is even more urgent now.

“Public health experts report that low-income communities in LA County have disproportionately high numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths…”

Related to this fact, researchers from The Ohio State and funded by National Institutes of Health published data indicating that food insecurity and poor nutrition play a significant role in the disparate impact of COVID-19. Individuals with pre-existing conditions, including those often connected to poor nutrition like severe obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and hypertension, risk significantly worse health outcomes when they contract COVID-19. Another group of researchers published in the journal Nutrient reported that poor nutrition can compromise an individual’s immune system and can trigger systemic inflammation in the body, resulting in worse COVID-19 outcomes.

Box of food from the LA Regional Food Bank“The pandemic presents a new challenge to the Food Bank as we have to balance safety protocols for social distancing with the urgent need to get nutritious food to the hundreds of thousands who are food insecure in Los Angeles County,” Ani Aratounians, MS, RD, our new Director of Nutrition Services, told us. “Prior to the pandemic, the bulk of our food distribution happened through food pantries run by our vast network of partners across the County. Stocking fresh fruit, vegetables and other staples of a balanced diet from our warehouse or directly from local grocery stores through our Extra Helpings program was relatively easy.”

Now, however, the bulk of our distribution is done through drive-through distributions of 80-pound boxes of food designed to last a family for a week or more. Out of necessity, many of these items are shelf-stable. Nonetheless, we work with our suppliers to keep a steady supply of fresh fruits and vegetables in these boxes to help families maintain the balanced diet that they need to thrive. At the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, we have always known that access to a healthy, nutritious diet was essential to the health of individuals, families, and entire communities. Now, with COVID-19, it is more important than ever.

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