Disease and disaster: Navigating food insecurity in a community affected by crises during COVID-19





COVID-19, Crisis, Food Insecurity, Food Systems, Mental Health, Pandemic, Resiliency, Tornado, Natural Disasters


This exploratory study examines how a community experiencing food insecurity while navigating multiple crises can be a model to inform resources, processes, and systems supporting communities facing similar circumstances. Data for this study were collected from residents of a community in Oconee County, a rural county in the northwest corner of South Carolina experiencing pervasive food insecurity. The community was severely impacted by the onset of COVID-19 and further devastated by a tornado in mid-April. The area of the county that sustained the greatest damage from the tornado was the Utica Mill Hill community, home to the county’s most vulnerable population. This cascading series of events constituted a crisis-within-a-crisis for the community. In this study, we sought to learn more about community members’ experiences and the effects of the crises on com­munity members’ access to food. We conducted in-depth interviews with 14 residents living in the Utica Mill Hill community. The results provided insight into community members’ experiences of the crises and the nature of community-level response and recovery efforts. We learned about participants’ experiences with food insecurity, new food policy developments, and gained unexpected insight into community members’ experiences with mental health challenges related to the crises.


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Author Biographies

Andrew S. Pyle, Clemson University

Associate Professor of Communication

Michelle Eichinger, Clemson University

Land Grant Local Research Fellow

Barry A. Garst, Clemson University

Associate Professor of Youth Development Leadership

Catherine Mobley, Clemson University

Professor of Sociology

Sarah F. Griffin, Clemson University

Professor of Public Health Sciences, Clemson University

Leslie H. Hossfeld, Clemson University

Professor & Dean, College of Behavioral, Social, & Health Sciences

Mike McGirr, Clemson University

Director, Land Grant Local

Helen R. Saunders, Tri-County Technical College Commission

Community Partner, Oconee County Representative

Logo for COVID-19's Impact on the Food System



How to Cite

Pyle, A., Eichinger, M., Garst, B., Mobley, C., Griffin, S., Hossfeld, L., McGirr, M., & Saunders, H. (2021). Disease and disaster: Navigating food insecurity in a community affected by crises during COVID-19. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 10(3), 37–54. https://doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2021.103.005