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Pat Van Burkleo Discusses Legislative Priorities for Nutritional Equity

Pat Van Burkleo, the executive director of Feeding Louisiana, the Louisiana Food Bank Association, shares insight on legislative priorities and the impact food insecurity can have on health.

Pat Van Burkleo, the executive director of Feeding Louisiana, the Louisiana Food Bank Association, shares insight on legislative priorities and the impact food insecurity can have on health.

Transcript

Nearly 1 in 5 people in Louisiana live in poverty. How do you believe addressing the issues of poverty and food insecurity in Louisiana can alleviate the burden of chronic conditions?

Yeah, there's no doubt that the root of a lot of this is poverty. And I think a good start is if we could have a living wage for people in our communities. I think the minimum wage needs to go up and I think we need to be investing more in education and training programs. But we need to have a base that everyone has a living wage and I think that would go a long way. We do have great programs, SNAP is just a stellar program, it's now up to 200% of poverty on the federal level in Louisiana. So there are a lot of people who are qualified but haven't enrolled. That's a real security blanket for a lot of families and we need to get that blanket bigger. We hope that Congress continues to support SNAP, as they have in the past, at least, 4 years.

What should be the legislative priorities in this space to ensure access to nutritional food and mitigate the health disparities arising from poverty?

Yeah, we would love to see the work requirement end for college students, we think that would be a huge benefit for the people in school. There are some legislative things that we're working with or more administrative things that we're working with, with the State Department of Health and Department of Education, mostly around summer feeding and after-school feeding. There are health codes that really don't affect, or shouldn't affect when we’re doing shelf-stable food for after-school programs. But we still have a big requirement on the Health Department. And so we are hoping to write a new code for shelf-stable foods for distribution for after-school and summer programs. We're working with the Department of Education to find summer feeding programs earlier. So requiring the schools to let us know or the school districts to let us know, prior to May, whether they're going to have a summer feeding or not. So community organizations can come in and fill that need. But we need we need a longer runway to do that. So there are a lot of administrative things that we need to be working on. I don't think the state of Louisiana is going to be focusing on legislative issues that probably will support increasing food insecurity, or the reverse of that you know, but I do think that the administration is looking at things that they can do administratively to get things done.

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