The COVID pandemic killed the jobs of low-earning workers in restaurants, hotels, theaters, and shops — jobs held mainly by women and minorities. Skyrocketing unemployment has pushed many into poverty, resulting in homelessness and hunger. A recent "60 Minutes" segment gives viewers an inside look at the struggles of vulnerable people in Ohio and how organizations like the Mid-Ohio Food Bank, a Healthify partner, are working to address food insecurity in the community. (The Mid Ohio Food Bank recently changed their name to Mid Ohio Food Collective.)
In the segment, which originally aired March 7, correspondent Scott Pelley talked with Matt Habash, President and CEO of the Mid-Ohio Food Collective, about how COVID has increased food security in the community and how the pandemic impacted the thousands of volunteers who play a key role at the Mid-Ohio Food Collective.
According to Habash, “We have 13,000 volunteers who put in about 70,000 hours of work packing food. And we were going to lose them all. Senior citizens are being told to stay home and more than half our wonderful volunteers are corporate volunteers. They were being told to stay home as well.” As a result, the Mid-Ohio Food Collective turned to the National Guard for help distributing food to the community
The piece goes on to describe how “hunger is reaching into middle-income families too. More than 17 million Americans have told the census bureau they've relied on free food during the pandemic.”
When asked by Pelley to describe these middle-income families, Matt replied “These people are our neighbors. It's people that are just struggling, people that lost jobs because of COVID, seniors that are shut-in, and children. That's probably the scariest thing to me is making sure kids get enough food. We actually had a 14-year-old say to us, "It's not my day to eat."
Confronting SDoH needs amid COVID-19
Ohio is a state that has been hit especially hard by the pandemic, as well as one in which state-level resources and assistance have been woefully hard to find. Near the height of the pandemic, for example, it was estimated that among residents who had filed for unemployment benefits, only about half actually received them. Whether that was despite or because of the fact that the state's unemployment claims' during the pandemic exceeded its totals from the last past three years combined is anyone's guess.
But it's also worth noting that many of the immediate challenges surfaced by the pandemic—challenges like food and housing insecurity, for example—reflect long-developing trends. In that sense, it would be a mistake to think that COVID-19 alone created the conditions we're seeing on the ground today. In fact, it only exacerbated an already challenging status quo. Between 2012 and 2018, to give just one example, the number of Ohioans experiencing homelessness rose by 30.8 percent, even as the statewide population grew a mere 1.3 percent. Among those accessing homelessness services, one in three were children.
The portrait that emerges is one in which many Ohio communities have been struggling and coping with crisis for a long time, to the point that deprivations associated with COVID-19 may be differences only in degree rather than kind. It's an alarming picture, especially when you take into account everything that we know about the well-documented correlations between income, education, access to care, and self-rated health. It is, above all, a picture that highlights the importance of building new models and rethinking old approaches to whole-person health. That's the only way we'll finally move the needle on SDoH, and we're honored to be partnering with organizations like the Mid-Ohio Food Collective to help bring that vision to life.
The Ohio Community Network
The Ohio Community Network is a group of payers and community-based organizations who’ve come together to spark unprecedented collaboration to meet the social needs of residents of Ohio. CareSource, Healthify, and CBOs throughout the state are connecting to provide whole-person care to the most vulnerable members of the community.
Take action today
We are both humbled by and proud of the great work being done by the Mid-Ohio Food Collective, CareSource, and other Ohio-based organizations. At Healthify, we're deeply committed to changing the story of SDoH in America. And we're actively partnering with organizations in and around the healthcare ecosystem to do it. We know that partners who share our dedication and our passion are an essential ingredient that will help us bring that long-term vision to life. Together, we're stronger—and we can't accomplish this vital work alone. Learn more about Healthify and how you can partner with us today.