Food Insecurity and COVID: How LSU MBA Alum Korey Patty has Brought Hope to Thousands During a Pandemic

A couple of years ago, executive director of Feeding Louisiana and Flores MBA Alum Korey Patty sparked up a conversation with his Uber driver while en route to a Feeding America conference in Florida. After the driver asked Patty what he did for work and why he was in town, he explained to Patty that he used to own his own bed and breakfast until falling victim to the 2008 housing market crisis. The tanked economy had forced someone who was once a successful businessman to depend on local food banks just to feed his family.

This story paints the picture of the fragile state of food insecurity both in our state and in the country today, especially amid the pandemic. According to the Feeding Louisiana website, 1 in 6 households in our state–more than 784,000 family members–struggle to put food on the table. This level of food insecurity has been compounded by the pandemic, as many that previously lived paycheck-to-paycheck have been laid off and forced to rely on local food bank networks to provide for their families. According to Patty, there’s been a 40-50% increase in need at Louisiana food banks since March of 2020.

Photo credit: Feeding Louisiana

“Around the time of the government shutdown in February 2019, there were a lot of government employees and contractors with good, well-paying jobs coming to our food banks because they missed one or two paychecks. That really shined a light on just how many people live on the precipice of food insecurity. It’s not just an issue that impacts people in poverty; there is episodic food insecurity, too. COVID has been hard on everybody, so there’s been an increase in need of our network, which has required a lot of effort from our members to meet that need,” commented Patty.

Along with increasing the need for food bank networks, the pandemic forced a need for change within Feeding Louisiana. Patty mentioned that COVID has asked a lot from everyone within his organization. “For me, as a leader in my organization and as a manager, I’m just trying to be intentional about recognizing that everyone is facing challenges right now. It would be nice to have my team meeting in person in the same office, but we have had to adapt to what the situation is now and figure out how to take advantage of the time we have on Zoom meetings and realize everyone has personal limitations.”

Photo credit: Feeding Louisiana

To meet the challenges presented to him in his professional life, Patty often relies on the lessons and skills he learned in the Flores MBA Program. He regularly benefits from the network he developed in the program, which helped him to establish a solid professional network moving forward after graduation. Patty believes that the ability to leverage the things he’s done, the places he’s been, and the importance of the people around him is so important in any job, and the Flores MBA Program provided a great foundation for him to be able to do that.

Since his taking over at Feeding Louisiana in 2017, Patty has redefined his role and helped the organization expand, even during the pandemic. Over the past two-and-a-half years, the organization has grown its capacity by adding staff members. It went from a “one-person shop” with a single executive director, to a team of four (soon to be five or six). Even though he isn’t in a typical business environment, Patty has now had to pivot from doing the work to managing and leading the organization, which is another reason his MBA is valuable to him.  

Florida — November 2018 Feeding America serves those affected by Hurricane Michael in the panhandle of Florida. Photography by Alyssa Schukar

By driving communication regarding its food bank members and leading the public conversation around food insecurity, including state and federal assistance programs such as SNAP benefits,  Patty and Feeding Louisiana have inspired hope for those that need it the most—people like Patty’s Uber driver in Florida. At the same time, Patty’s ability to not only lead his organization through a crisis such as the pandemic, but to facilitate growth within that organization should also inspire those seeking to become tomorrow’s business leaders.

“I think there are always opportunities, even within challenge. For us, we were going through a strategic planning process a year ago because we were about to embark on some work that could expand our capacity. We wanted to be an organization that was growing and capable of more work, but we wanted to do it sustainably. Then, a pandemic happened. During this time, we’ve had to work more and harder than I think the organization has in its existence. The thing I always come back to is the thought that this is really good work. I truly believe that we’re doing good work in being able to help people and put ideas in front of people that change the way that we as a society think about the problems that face us now and that have faced us for a long time,” added Patty.

If you would like to get involved with Feeding Louisiana’s mission to fight against food insecurity in our state, you can subscribe to their newsletter or find more volunteer opportunities on their website here.

The LSU Flores MBA Program provides you with a flexible path to advance your career. Our nationally ranked program currently administers a traditional, two-year, full-time program, a one-year, full-time program for business majors, a part-time online (no residency requirement) program, and an Executive MBA Flex. For more information, visit mba.lsu.edu.


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