Experts outline how pandemic has ushered in a children’s hunger and housing crisis

Originally published on USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism.

With record-breaking unemploymentmillions falling behind in rent and mile-long food bank lines, the COVID-19 pandemic has also led to a food and housing crisis of epic proportions.

When covering the soaring food and housing insecurity plight facing the country, it’s important for reporters to set anecdotal stories amid a broader societal framework, said Dr. Megan Sandel, an associate professor of pediatrics at the Boston University School of Medicine.

While the hook offered by the personal story is important, she encouraged reporters to go deeper and describe the policy and structural inequities that underlie these struggles.

“It’s not by accident that low-income kids of color, particularly black and Hispanic kids and Latinx kids have the highest rates of food insecurity,” she said in a Center for Health Journalism “Covering Coronavirus” webinar this week.

Sandel, the co-director of The Grow Clinic at Boston Medical Center, joined Megan V. Smith, an associate professor of psychiatry in the Yale School of Medicine, to discuss the crisis of child hunger and homelessness in the United States, a plight significantly worsened by the ongoing pandemic. They described the impact of food insecurity on young children’s brains, the mental toll of scarcity on caregivers, promising interventions that offer hope, and ideas and advice for reporters on how to best approach the story.