Finding groceries has long been a challenge for people living in "food deserts" - areas where affordable, healthy food is scarce because grocery stores are too far away.
And the coronavirus has made the hunt for nutritious fruits and vegetables even more difficult, with shoppers regularly emptying store shelves in supermarkets across the U.S.
"COVID-19 is really exposing some of the limitations or frailty of the food system in general," Michael Prelip, public health professor at UCLA, told USA TODAY.
Data shows that 2.3 million people in the U.S. live more than a mile away from a supermarket and don't have reliable access to a car. Food deserts are also most commonly in low-income neighborhoods, Prelip said.
A 2012 report published in the American Journal of Public Health found that black and Latino neighborhoods have fewer large supermarkets, an abundance of fast food options and more small grocery stores than their white counterparts.
Another issue is whether people have the money to buy groceries. Millions of people have applied for unemployment benefits due to the economic meltdown caused by the virus.
But there's good news: Local leaders, non-profit organizations and restaurants across the nation are mobilizing to help communities in food deserts by delivering groceries and meals.
One of those trying to help is Olympia Auset, founder of SÜPRMARKT, a low-cost pop-up and organic produce delivery service in South Los Angeles, a predominantly black and Latino neighborhood. Auset told USA TODAY that her team "sprang into action" when stores began selling out of beans and other healthy foods.
Before the pandemic, her team would deliver about 20 packages a week. Now they're getting close to 95 orders.
"It's been a real challenge," said Auset. Nonetheless, she said: "We're really happy to keep people out of chaotic spaces or potentially unsafe spaces."
Auset also partnered with local community figures to create a food giveaway called "Feed The Hood," which is powered by donations.
South Los Angeles has seen a rise in black-owned cafes in the last few years, Eater LA reported. But the coronavirus outbreak could end it soon with many restaurants closing and depending on delivery services, The Los Angeles Times reported.
To prevent this, Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who represents a portion of South LA, created an emergency senior meals program providing funds to local businesses to cook and deliver meals to homebound seniors.
“South LA is experiencing a renaissance. Numerous small businesses have opened to address the lack of quality food options in our community and we couldn’t sit idly by and watch COVID-19 undo that progress," Harris-Dawson told USA TODAY, adding that the program provides access to healthy while keeping local businesses open.
Similar to SÜPRMARKT in South LA, Forty Acres Fresh Market in Chicago is delivering almost three dozen orders of fresh produce daily. Liz Abunaw founded the market in response to the lack of fresh and healthy food in underserved areas like Chicago's West Side.
Abunaw told USA TODAY they're also delivering to communities where people don't experience food insecurity but have a higher risk of getting COVID-19.
Customers can also purchase an extra box of groceries which the market donates to local churches, schools and social workers to give to families in need.
"For us, it's just being present, being affordable, being accessible and still giving people the quality and good food they deserve," Abunaw said.
A similar market in St. Louis, Missouri, is also delivering groceries in a truck that cofounder Jeremy Goss bought from the post office. The Link Market partnered with a church for a food and household giveaway with monetary and item donations from state officials and organizations. More than 350 families got the essential items, Goss told USA TODAY.
Goss, who is also a plastic surgery resident at Yale University, said it's not a surprise that COVID-19 is hitting communities most in need.
"Hunger in America does not look like starvation. It looks like obesity because if you don't have a grocery store where you live and you only have fast food restaurants available to you, that's where you go," he said.
Along with food deliveries, Goss partnered with several St. Louis restaurants to provide nutritious meals to healthcare workers while allowing restaurants to stay open. The initiative, "Food for the Frontlines," has received more than $10,000 in donations.
"I'm not from St. Louis but it feels like a second home to me," he said, "And as much as we can do to rally around the people who need it the most, then we'll do that."