New San Antonio study finds link between food insecurity, unengaged distance learners

26% of families surveyed experiencing food insecurity

SAN ANTONIO – According to a new survey conducted by the UTSA Urban Education Institute, 26% of families say they are experiencing food insecurity. That means their food supply ran out and there was no money to buy more.

Director Michael Villareal said this is something we see throughout the city, not just in any particular part of town.

“In every school district, there are families that are running out of food and they’re having a very difficult time to keep themselves fed and to help their children be fully engaged as a consequence in their schools,” he said.

According to Eric Cooper with the San Antonio Food Bank, the results show a direct correlation with remote learning. He said with students not being on campus, they are not able to take advantage of breakfast and lunch through the National school lunch program.

“Our lines at the food bank, as you all know, doubled back as the COVID-19 crisis hit. And a lot of that was due to the fact that kids were missing those meals and that demand on the household cause their parents to come and get assistance for some of them for the very first time as they’re struggling through this environment,” Cooper said.

When schools closed at the start of the pandemic, more than 20 area school districts began providing meal pick up services.

RELATED: Map: Where San Antonio-area students can find free school meals during closures

Villareal said the correlation continues in the survey showing that 65% of those students who are experiencing food insecurity show poor engagement in school and aren’t turning in assignments.

“If we want to see the bright future that we expect of our children, we need to be investing in them now. And food is a basic necessity that needs to be met,” he said.

Villareal hopes the issues highlighted in this survey will trigger community involvement to combat food insecurity especially amid this pandemic. He says there are three ways someone can help: donations, volunteering and reaching out to state legislators to loosen regulations that restrict people from getting food assistance more easily.

For more details on how to help click here.

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A San Antonio native currently in her dream job as the executive producer behind KSAT special programming like Fiesta parades, Dia De Los Muertos and the Rodeo special. When she's not prepping for these productions, she's helping run KSAT's social media channels.