For the last two months, we’ve been checking in with a few high school students across the New Orleans area. In audio diaries and in emails, they talked about missing out on milestones, new responsibilities at home, when and how change will come, and more.
The pandemic has hit more than abortion — it’s shifted access to reproductive health writ large. Advocates say patient volumes have been cut, some reproductive health clinics shut down for over a month, and even in the reopening phase, organizations are re-working how they operate. What’s unclear is the impact all this might have on reproductive health.
There’s an innate incongruence in bringing new life into the world during the gaping stretch of a global pandemic. And pregnant women and new mothers in Louisiana say what the virus has stripped from all of us is being felt even more in the advent of birth: intimacy. What is already an anxious time has only been made more so by the uncertainty and stress of a virus we’re still trying to understand, and the sense that they can’t rely on others as they’d hoped.
All over the city, people are renewing and doubling down on their gardening efforts, or planting and growing their own food for the first time.
As the city expanded, the low-lying, swampy area promised space and opportunity. Black families moved there en masse, and services like grocery stores, malls and jobs followed. But the growth stalled and the far-flung, sprawling region started suffering from disinvestment and white flight. Crime and blight followed. After Hurricane Katrina hit, many businesses never reopened. Hotels, schools and stores shuttered. Now, residents complain about feeling forgotten. That feeling hasn't subsided as a pandemic sweeps the world.
The New Orleanians responding to the COVID-19 disaster by starting food relief programs don't think of it as charity. They think of it as solidarity. Mutual aid. Some groups that have stepped up, like Familias Unidas, were already doing this work. Others, like the NOLA Tree Project, were doing entirely different work. And others didn't even exist before the coronavirus hit. They came together in the crisis.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, Louisiana had one of the highest rates of food insecurity in the country, with one in five people at risk of going hungry.Second Harvest projects that will increase to one in three people. In the month following business shutdowns in Louisiana, there was a 400 percent increase in applications for SNAP benefits over the previous month. And emergency calls for food aid to the United Way more than doubled compared to this time last year.