For individuals living in a food desert, like many in rural Appalachian communities, the COVID-19 pandemic can have an even greater impact on food security, says Lauri Andress, assistant professor in the School of Public Health at West Virginia University


“We know COVID-19 will disproportionately affect those living in poverty. The individual level guidance we typically provide on how to eat healthily will collide with the pandemic regulations that have been enacted, leading to a conflict with the structural and systemic issues we know to exist for low income individuals living in food deserts.” 

“In the case of food deserts, we know that how an individual experiences food security in those areas is dependent on whether there is access to reliable transportation and a regular income.  For those with a vehicle and a stable income, they may simply drive out of the food desert and secure nutritious, affordable food. On the other hand, for those who rely on others for transportation and experience low or no employment, accessing affordable, nutritious food becomes even harder, especially as the policy guidance during this pandemic is to close most businesses, shelter at home, and practice social distancing. As work becomes even scarcer and transportation less reliable, a community can become a less likely place of refuge and more like a place one may not escape.” 

“COVID-19 and related regulations have a greater chance of negatively impacting those living in poverty within food deserts. As we go about advising West Virginians on how to stay healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to consider how individual guidance we typically provide might be constrained by structural factors beyond any one person’s ability to control.”


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