The pandemic has reshaped the landscape of North Carolina in many ways. Our response, as well as that of philanthropy’s overall, must be both immediate and enduring.
The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the of most serious public health emergencies of our lifetimes. Most of us didn’t see it coming. However, COVID and its extraordinary impact has been felt by everyone at some level.
In addition to the tragedy accompanying the many lives that were lost, disparities and inequities were brought to the forefront as communities of color - in particular - dealt with the devastating effects of the pandemic more than anyone else.
According to Census data, Black North Carolinians, despite making up 22% of the population, accounted for 36% of COVID-19 cases and 35% of deaths at one point. Additionally, North Carolinians who identify as Hispanic or Latino represented 50% of all COVID-19 cases in summer of 2020 while accounting for just about 10% of the state's population.
Since the beginning of the outbreak we have been orienting our resources to support organizations that are focused on rebuilding for greater equity. And while we work toward more ambitious undertakings that will take time, we have also been focused on meeting some of the immediate needs of our communities and our grantees.
From the beginning, nonprofit organizations and other unsung heroes needed support and resources to address the challenges that all communities - especially those that are under-resourced - were experiencing. In order to ensure that those organizations could continue to fulfill their essential missions, we initiated our response, in early 2020 which ultimately totaled 89 grants for $2.4 million to support our grantees and mitigate the impact on communities that were most affected.
While life slowly returns to normal for most, the impact of COVID can still be felt across many of our communities. In North Carolina, food insecurity almost doubled from 12.9% of households in December 2018 to 24% in the spring of 2020. Demand for emergency food assistance has been at an all-time high, and communities of color, once again, are disproportionately impacted.
In addition, community-based, direct service organizations have remained very much in a disaster response phase as disruptions to education, economy, transportation, health care, and other aspects of daily life continue. Supporting our grantees, and other organizations working across communities, that have done amazing work in providing much needed assistance to the people in the areas they serve, continues to be vital.
As we work to support the rebuilding of our systems and society post-COVID, we have committed an additional $5 million. This funding is focused specifically on emergency food assistance and continued support for our grantees as they increase their focus on equity and develop stronger organizational resilience.
Broadly speaking, funding is supporting both existing and new grantees aligned with these and similar purposes:
- Continued support for operational pivots by multi-year grantees.
- Reinvestments in Latino-serving and tribal nonprofits to support their continued engagement in emergency response and deepened engagement in vaccine access and uptake.
- Grantmaking focused on emergency food distribution with a focus on locally grown food, in-turn supporting community economic development.
COVID has highlighted existing weaknesses and inequities in the food system. Emergency food response is critical as a short-term solution but our long-term strategy for North Carolina is focused more on local food ecosystems and policy and systems change that can provide food while building wealth in local communities. Ultimately, the vision is to have a more equitable and resilient North Carolina food system that feeds more people and advances racial and economic equity.
While this latest funding is providing immediate relief, it also supports the development of new relationships, particularly between our Foundation and organizations serving Latino and American Indian populations that will help support this longer-term vision.
We know it will be a while before we understand the full and long-term impacts of the pandemic throughout our state. As a result, it is essential that we remain focused on increasing equity, are willing to learn and adapt, and commit to promoting lasting change at the systems and policy level.