food insecurity

If you come to think of it, the whole population of California is still determining where their next meal will come from. This uncertainty is a fact of life for 38.3 million Americans or little under California's population of 39.5 million.

Although the effects of poverty are numerous and diverse, many of them, like homelessness, a lack of access to healthcare, and poor salaries, are regularly discussed in public. However, a number go largely unnoticed. Among these is a problem with food insecurity alone.

Food insecurity is one of the most significant nutrition-related public health challenges in the U.S. because of its prevalence and several documented negative health effects. 

What is food insecurity?

Food security, according to the USDA, "means access by all people to enough food at all times for a healthy life." However, a food insecurity problem affects over 10% of Americans. 11.7 million of these 38.3 million people are children, which is higher than the whole population of New York City.

Such statistics about food programs also raise challenging concerns, such as why and who these families and individuals struggle with food insecurity. What effects do so many people going hungry have on our society? What can we do, finally, to resolve this serious problem? We will learn about food insecurity in this post and several solutions.

So, whenever a person or family does not have access to adequate food security, it is considered to be experiencing food insecurity.

food insecurity

Different families and individuals deal with and experience food insecurity. To clarify these varying experiences experienced food insecurity, the USDA provides four main ranges of both food security and food insecurity:

Food Security:

  • High Food Security: According to the USDA, high food security refers to people or families that do not report problems accessing food or experiencing any restrictions. These families are not particularly concerned about eating.

  • Marginal Food Security: According to the USDA, households with marginal food security occasionally worry about running out of food, but they don't make any noticeable dietary or consumption modifications.

Food Insecurity:

  • Low food security: Although they may not necessarily eat less food overall, households or individuals with low food security report eating food of inferior quality, less variety, and generally having a less adequate diet.

  • Very Low Food Security: Families with very low levels of food security report that their dietary habits and intake have been altered in some way. These individuals and families could skip meals to spread their food out over more time.

Food insecurity is when an individual or group doesn't have adequate access to or money to buy nutritious food. Although hunger may be a symptom of food insecurity, hunger is not the same as food insecurity.

Who is Food Insecure?

We've already mentioned how food insecurity in us most significantly impacts children, with all of the hungry children in America filling a city the size of New York. But which communities in rural areas are the hardest hit by food insecurity?

The answer, however, is a challenge. You can discover food insecurity in each community because more than one in ten Americans experience it. Food insecurity, however, has a greater impact on some communities than others. 

People who are more likely to experience food insecurity include:

  • The risk of food insecurity is more than twice as common among non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic households than in non-Hispanic White households. 

  • Households with lower incomes (those under 185% of the poverty line) compared to families with higher incomes. 

  • Families with kids, especially those under the age of 5, compared to families without kids.

  • Families with only one adult as the head, especially single women-headed households.

What is the main cause of food insecurity?

We will only be able to address some of the factors that contribute to food insecurity in this article because they are numerous. They affect a significant section of our people here in the United States and are both historical and contemporary, intentional and unplanned.

Food Desert

There are some effects of geography and urban development on food insecurity. A common phrase for places where locals lack access to inexpensive, wholesome meals is "food desert." In urban settings, this translates to a distance of at least one mile and at least ten miles in rural regions from a grocery store that is reasonably priced. Healthy, nutritious foods are simply out of reach for people who live in places with no public transit or unreliable transportation, those who don't possess a car, households with children, and those who have mobility issues, both physically and financially.
Food deserts have an impact, but blaming them for food insecurity ignores the structural problems that cause it. Even those with limited incomes only sometimes buy groceries at the store that is nearest to them. Instead, they could pick a favored supermarket or chain with reduced pricing or decide to buy close to their place of employment to combine many excursions. 


Access, location, and food deserts are thus only some of the primary issues that many households with children experiencing food insecurity face. Poverty is the primary contributor to food insecurity. Geographic access is not "associated with the percentage of households that [are] food insecure households," as stated by the USDA in a 2014 report, even if mobility, transit, and car-centricity are still problems intimately linked to poverty.
Living within a mile of a grocery shop and having access to dependable transportation to get there and back wouldn't change the reality that 38.3 million Americans cannot afford food or enough healthy food. Many low-income households spend more than 25% of their income on food, whereas middle- and high-income households spend more money, but still a smaller percentage of their income, on food. This is due to low wages and centuries of discrimination.

What is the effect of food insecurity?

food insecurity

There are several effects of household food insecurity alone. For one result, it is extremely challenging to budget for and prioritizes other costs when households with food insecurity spend over 27% of their income on food. Budgeting for household food security costs against other essential costs like housing, electricity, and healthcare forces one to make an impossible trade-off between living in one's apartment, eating, and taking prescribed medications.

Because food insecurity has a variety of negative effects on both children's and adults' health, medications are also connected to food insecurity. Adults who are food insecure may be more susceptible to developing chronic illnesses, including diabetes, obesity, and depression

Food insecurity is no longer a constant. It may persist for a short while when a family member is between jobs or through other difficult financial circumstances, or it may last for a long time, especially in the case of people who are disabled and are unable to work. However, as the impacts of prolonged food insecurity may resonate throughout a child's life and development, these kids are in far greater danger. 

Additionally, food insecurity harms academic performance. Children's compromised immune systems brought on by inadequate nutrition in their meals might result in frequent absences. Food-insecure children may find it difficult to concentrate in class, affecting their performance and retention. Children who endure food insecurity may face difficulties throughout their lives.

Solutions to Ending Food Insecurity

Significant Changes

Continue Improving SNAP Benefits:

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, assists families and individuals experiencing food poverty. However, SNAP benefits must be enhanced even if they are essential for federal nutrition programs assisting millions of families. They continue to be based on the USDA's Thrifty Food Plan (TFP), which is no longer a reliable indicator of food expenditures. Even yet, the TFP falls short of all legal dietary requirements in the US.

Regardless of local variations in the cost of living, SNAP benefits are also the same across the nation—a characteristic that is advantageous to some but disadvantageous to others. In many households, there is less money available for food when they live, where they must spend more of their income on housing costs, and SNAP benefits are insufficient in these situations. Additionally, SNAP payments don't consider the time it takes to cook and prepare meals, which does a huge injustice to the numerous low-wage employees who are already pressed for time and must work long, sometimes irregular hours to afford costs like rent.

Reduce Food Waste:

According to the USDA, 30 and 40% of the food produced in the country is lost or wasted. Globally, the percentage is closer to 30%, sufficient to feed 2 billion people and end world hunger. The amount of food waste still has to be decreased and eventually eliminated. 

At many phases of manufacturing, food is wasted. A staggering quantity of food is wasted in the United States, whether due to spoiling during transit, being thrown out due to cosmetic flaws, or being thrown out after its sell-by date. 

One option is implementing uniform labeling norms to provide transparency and clarity for food safety. Customers frequently need clarification on the differences between best-by, use-by, and sell-by dates, which results in food being thrown out before it should be. As long as they are handled appropriately, most foods are considered safe and healthy until there is proof of rotting. 

Additionally, laws to protect national grocery retailers from uncommon liabilities not protected by the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act need to be implemented. This will enable them to contribute extra and unsold items to charities and neighborhood food banks, significantly lowering hunger in communities. 

Offer Free School Lunches: All children should have free school lunches. Students' capacity to maintain attention throughout the day and enhance learning results depend on food intake during it. Even though studying is one of the most crucial aspects of school, offering free school meals to all children would have several advantages:

  • Less stigma associated with eating lunch at school
  • Improved food quality and diversity for students, especially in terms of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Increased well-being and decreased obesity rates
  • More children from low-income backgrounds who are food insecure attend school

School is most advantageous when kids are physically and intellectually prepared to study. Lack of access to the food and nutrition programs that kids require, particularly throughout their growth, lowers their chances of success.


Every neighborhood is impacted by food insecurity. Every state and neighborhood is affected, while in certain regions, it's more widespread than in others. An excellent method to alter things for the better in your community is to aid in reducing food insecurity. Whatever your comfort level, there are a few easy ways to get involved and have an influence. 


Volunteering with food banks, cooperatives, and mutual aid networks is a fantastic approach to combat food insecurity and build ties within your community. Everyone benefits from volunteering: it allows you to meet new people and establish relationships, learn new skills, and it's enjoyable (truly!).

Contact Your Representatives:

You need the power to bring about systemic change. Your local and national elected officials work for you and your neighborhood. Contact them using your voice to express your worries about hunger and food insecurity. Here you can locate the local representative you need.


Many groups working to end hunger and combat food insecurity are always grateful for donations. Your contributions to food bank, whether cash or food items, may significantly aid those in need.

Act Now to Combat Food Insecurity

The United States is frequently cited as having the planet's most plentiful land. Millions of children, who make up more than a tenth of our population, deal with food insecurity even though we produce more than we can consume.

While various elements contribute to food insecurity, poverty is the most blatant and responsible. Given that we now waste away more than 30% of the food we produce, the aid and assistance we give to our less fortunate brothers and sisters is insufficient, and we are financially able to do much more. 

Even though addressing food insecurity is extremely difficult, it is possible. Systemic and community change are possible; they are frequently the same. 

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