Insights & Actions for Healthy Living

What is food insecurity and why is it a problem?

We hear this term quite often so I am happy that you asked what it means! I believe many of us don’t fully grasp what being food insecure is all about.

Food insecurity occurs when a person does not have access to a sufficient amount of nutritious foods. It is a measure of food deprivation for many people across the country. The bottom line is hunger.

Food insecurity refers to a household that has limited or no access to adequate amounts of nutritious foods. It affects every person in that household even though it may affect them all in different ways. It might be that the family unit has little money to afford the food they require or some other problem accessing this food.

Every age person is affected by food insecurity including our most vulnerable people – children and seniors. Hunger has no boundaries either and affects people in both rural and urban areas in every state in the union.

Dangers of Food Insecurity

When we talk about food insecurity it should be noted that there are negative health and even social consequences to being hungry.

According to Feeding America, in 2013 2.9 million senior households experienced food insecurity and 1.1 million households with a senior living alone experienced food insecurity. Those numbers are expected to grow as the population ages.

Seniors who are considered food insecure can decline in their functional abilities due to a lack of proper nutrition. This can lead to many poor health outcomes including falls, falls with injury and an inability to remain functionally independent to live at home. Food insecurity can lead to long term care placement for many seniors.

Children who are hungry also have negative health outcomes including poor growth and development physically but are also mentally at risk because it may impact their ability to learn impeding their academic performance. In 2013 it was estimated that 15.8 million children lived in food insecure households. Around the world, 2.5 million children will die from malnutrition every year.

What We Can Do About It

There are things we can all do to help those who are food insecure.

  • Learn more about the situation in your local area as well as on a national level.
  • Be an advocate by contacting your elected officials to support legislation that helps fill the gap for food insecure households through feeding programs.
  • Donate to a local food bank regularly with money and food not just during the holiday and consider volunteering at your local food bank to help them provide meals to those who are hungry.
  • Organize a local food drive.

Hunger caused by inadequate food intake is often caused by poverty which limits access to food. There is substantial food produced throughout the world, now we need to help get this food to those in need.

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