Did You Know That 1 in 9 Americans Were Food Insecure in 2018?
What It Means & How You Can Help
Disclaimer: Food insecurity is a serious issue. Due to COVID-19 rates of food insecurity are rising, especially in low-income communities. Note that food insecurity can be a temporary status for some and a permanent reality for others. Therefore, it’s important to remain sensitive to all families and individuals facing food insecurity. If you are living through food insecurity, here is a link that will connect you to helpful resources.
Have you heard about food insecurity? For those less familiar, food insecurity refers to the accessibility of enough nutritious food that is affordable and culturally appropriate (culturally appropriate simply means that individuals are familiar with the food available to them). Unfortunately, many families can’t afford or do not have access to enough healthy food. In 2018, 11.1% of U.S. households were food insecure at some point during the year (USDA). Further, the number of communities suffering from food insecurity is increasing and nearly doubled in the past 20 years. This was a major component in creating Fare Meals – a free resource to help families at any food security status learn how to use what they have to create healthy and nutritious meals.
WHO SUFFERS FROM FOOD INSECURITY
The reality is, any family could be suffering from food insecurity and you might never know it – a friend, co-worker, neighbor etc. Rates of food insecurity tend to be highest among low-income households, notably in black and Hispanic communities. These neighborhoods sometimes qualify as or are referred to as “food deserts.” A food desert is an area with limited to no supermarket or reliable source of food within walking distance.
As I mentioned though, any family can suffer from food insecurity under different circumstances, even if they don’t reside in a food desert or a low-income neighborhood. Losing a job, a car accident, or hospital bills are only a few reasons a family might transition to a food insecure status. When this happens, some may be in the position to make the tough decision between paying the bills and putting food on the table.
Food insecurity affects individuals as well as families in many ways. It is often linked to obesity, malnourishment and poor eating patterns among families. Children who are not meeting their nutritional requirements may suffer from development issues and even poor mental health. Similarly, adults can face cognitive problems and general anxiety. As a further burden, these health implications may be an additional source of financial distress as individuals or parents may not be able to afford treatments, medications or necessary procedures for themselves or their children.
HOW TO HELP
It’s going to take a lot of work to put an end to food insecurity; however, there are things we can do to actively support the health, wellness, and nutritional needs of our community. There are also some great organizations that are committed to helping those in need. For example, City Harvest (@CityHarvestNYC) is an organization dedicated to ending hunger by feeding New Yorkers who are suffering from food insecurity.
In June 2020, Fare Meals partnered with City Harvest on a social initiative to raise money for food insecure families in the New York City area. As many of you know, Fare Meals is a passion project of mine dedicated to sharing deliciously healthy recipes using low-cost ingredients that are accessible to most families. In addition to the recipes and resources on the Fare Meals platform, I hope to continue educating all families about food insecurity and accessible nutrition for all that is budget-friendly and tastes great!
If you are fortunate enough to live without food insecurity in your own household, here are some ways you can get involved and help make a difference for families that do:
Find a local organization dedicated to food insecurity and make a difference by donating high need foods. When it comes to donations, shelf-stable items are always accepted and appreciated. These include canned goods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, fish and soups. You can also donate boxes of pasta, rice or other whole grains like quinoa and oats. Other commodities welcomed by most food banks include peanut butter, apple sauce, cooking oils, granola bars, and nuts. Check with your local organization for a list of acceptable donation items.
If you are able, monetary donations to food banks and other not-for-profit organizations targeting food insecurity are also incredibly helpful. Donated funds allow programs to continue providing meals for children and adults who need them as well as helping food banks to purchase the foods that are in high need for local areas.
VOLUNTEER YOUR TIME
Dedicating time toward food rescue organizations and programs is a proactive way to get involved. These organizations are always looking for volunteers to help sort through donations, pack up food, prepare meals, and serve the community. You can also volunteer for a shift at a meal delivery service or soup kitchen near you (a soup kitchen is a place where free meals are offered to food insecure individuals and families throughout the day).
BE AN ADVOCATE
Looking to get even more involved? Be an advocate for those who face hunger and help raise awareness about food insecurity in your community. Reach out to local politicians to see what is currently being done to combat food insecurity in your area. Stand by policies that support food insecurity programs. Help families in need and vote to make a difference in their lives!
I hope that with the above information you have learned a little more about food insecurity. I highly encourage you to help in at least one of the ways mentioned above if you can. This is something you can do by yourself or with classmates, coworkers, family and friends. Continue to educate yourself about food insecurity in communities nationwide and if you have any questions, reach out!