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Diversity Equity and InclusionHunger News and Trends

Pandemic Research Reveals Disproportionate Impact

When COVID-19 first took hold across America and the globe, you may have heard that the pandemic doesn’t discriminate. That statement couldn’t have been farther from the truth.  It is well documented that the negative impacts of the virus, including increased food insecurity, income loss, and increased likelihood of becoming sick or dying from COVID-19 disproportionately impact Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities.

To understand these disproportionate impacts, Food Lifeline wanted to learn which of the 17 Western Washington counties we serve with food security interventions have been most severely impacted by COVID-19 and related issues like food insecurity.  We planned to use these learning to prioritize investments in those most affected counties for future partnerships, programming, and resources.   We partnered with the Emerson Hunger Center to work with Emerson Hunger Fellow, Nancy Chang, to conduct the research.

We analyzed pre-COVID-19 and COVID-19-era community needs and assets assessments that considered food security and related sectors like health, workforce development, and housing. Using a racial equity lens, we highlighted disparities both pre-COVID and exacerbated by COVID.  We then used mapping and data visualization resources to showcase counties and communities within Food Lifeline’s Western Washington service area disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and food insecurity.

Three criteria were used to identify priority counties within Food Lifeline’s service area. These markers were selected as they each measure a distinct component of food security that has been amplified due to COVID-19 pandemic:

  • highest racial disparities
  • greatest proportional need
  • and greatest total need

Our research showed the following seven counties were most disproportionately impacted by food insecurity and racial disparities:

  1. Skagit: highest racial disparities
  2. Mason: highest racial disparities, greatest proportional need
  3. Snohomish: highest racial disparities, greatest total need
  4. King: greatest total need, greatest proportional need
  5. Pierce: greatest total need
  6. Pacific: greatest proportional need
  7. Lewis: greatest proportional need

What Happens Next?

Food Lifeline is fully committed to act on the research to center the needs of people disproportionately impacted by food insecurity. New investment opportunities will be identified and prioritized in collaboration with community members, community-based organizations, and philanthropic partners.

Does that mean that we divert our resources away from counties we are serving?  No. Counties that are outside of the priority list but within Food Lifeline’s service area will continue to be supported within our existing resource model and may be deemed a priority for programming, partnerships or resources based on specific program, context, or need.

We will continue to make regular data updates to support informed decision making. Contact Lisa Galvin, Director of Programs Strategy, at, for any questions related to the research.