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  • Collins Esobi Column:Coronavirus pandemic connected to food insecurity, social vulnerability

Collins Esobi Column:Coronavirus pandemic connected to food insecurity, social vulnerability

on Monday, 05 April 2021. Posted in Columns, Opinions

Collins Esobi Column:Coronavirus pandemic connected to food insecurity, social vulnerability

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the lives of Americans in South Carolina and across the country. 

The virus, which was first reported in Wuhan, China, rapidly spread around the world. It was declared a pandemic by the world health organization on March 11, 2020. Currently, there have been more than 30 million COVID-19 cases reported in the United States, and an approximate 550,000 deaths. In South Carolina, more than 500,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported. Some 9,126 of those cases resulted in death. 

For more than a year, researchers from around the globe have strived to find not only a vaccine or cure to the virus, but also ways to reduce the burden the pandemic has placed on most individuals. 

There has been a significant rise in food insecurity as the pandemic progresses. This led me to research on the impact COVID-19 has had on South Carolina in regards to food security and social vulnerability. Data for the research was compiled from each of the state’s 46 counties. 

In terms of economic consequences, food insecurity results in an increase in mortality and morbidity. It increases the direct financial costs of managing with the health impacts and immense reduction in economic productivity, brought about by hunger and malnutrition. Food insecurity is also associated with poor diet/nutrition and has been linked to negative health consequences such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases in particular heart diseases and atherosclerosis. 

The research focused on using social and economic factors to determine the prevalence of the coronavirus disease among the SNAP, or food stamps, dependent population in South Carolina. Employing a spatial mapping technique, social vulnerabilities of populations dependent on public assistance income was assessed and spatially compared the distribution with COVID-19 cases across the 46 counties in South Carolina. 

The study’s findings indicate a positive relationship between the dependence on food stamps and COVID-19. Old age and poverty were strongly associated with dependence on public assistance and were determined to be major predictors of those likely to contract the virus. Social vulnerability assessment also showed counties with a high prevalence of COVID-19 cases having high social vulnerabilities. These findings complement knowledge about the COVID-19 pandemic beyond clinical and biological risk factors by assessing socio-economic perspectives and determinants. Findings from the study would help inform policy decisions on poverty alleviation, public assistance, and food security programs in South Carolina. Other states, cities, and countries could also use these findings as a model when making decisions on creating food assistance programs. 

Ikechukwu Collins Esobi, originally from Nigeria, obtained his undergraduate degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. He is a nutritionist/food scientist. He obtained his master’s degree in human sciences from Texas A&M University. He is currently a doctoral candidate in food technology at the Clemson University.

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