Nearly 1 in 4 households experienced food insecurity in 2020.
When you hear someone is food insecure, it means they’re unable to acquire enough food to meet their needs, or uncertain of where their next meal might come from.
An analysis done by the Brookings Institution found that in late June of 2020, 27.5% of households with children were food insecure — meaning almost 14 million children could not get enough food to eat or under stress that they may not eat at all.
Researchers at Northwestern found that food insecurity has more than tripled among households with children to 29.5%.
In addition to that, Black families are twice as likely as whites to face food insecurity.
Black and Hispanic Americans are particularly disproportionately affected, with 19% of Black households and 16% of Hispanic households experiencing food insecurity in 2019, according to USDA data. White Americans fell below the national average, with 8% experiencing food insecurity.
You may be asking what is the source of the racial disparity in healthy food access. It goes pretty deep. I would recommend reading the following books to get up to speed on racism in this country:
I also talked about this on a podcast here.
People who live in food deserts are often more likely to experience food insecurity because food is harder to obtain where they live. About 19 million people, or about 6% of the population, lived in a food desert and 2.1 million households both lived in a food desert and lacked access to a vehicle in 2015, according to the USDA.
This is why I had the conversation with Gwen recently on the connection between health and wealth and how it impacted my family.
If you live in a food desert and are able to find some decent food, it can be costlier than full service grocery stores. A 2010 estimate from the USDA found that groceries sold in food deserts can cost significantly more than groceries sold in suburban markets, meaning people in low-income communities impacted by food insecurity often pay more money for their food. For example, prices for cereal were sometimes 25% higher in food deserts.
I am so eager and anxious to have everyone eat clean but people need the basic tools first to eat clean. That basic foundational tool is access to healthy food that is affordable. Eating plant rich, plant based or whole foods vegan is a lot more affordable than eating meat but when we’re talking about whole foods vs processed foods, the food system in this country supports unhealthy options by subsidizing unhealthy foods. Unhealthy processed foods end up being artificially cheaper. But we can fix this as a society if it is a priority to do so.
College graduates experienced food insecurity at a rate of just 5% in 2019. For those without a high school degree, the rate skyrocketed to 27%. Of course, lack of education does not condemn someone automatically to unhealthy food, but this is just showing correlation of education to access to higher incomes/salaries, which puts you in a neighborhood with health food stores or access to a car to get healthy foods.
Adults who have a disability and are not able to work also experience more than two times the rate of food insecurity as adults who do not have a disability.
In most cases, hunger isn’t caused by a shortage of food, but rather it is a logistics issue. Lots of food that is harvested on farms end up going to landfill, which is why I appreciate the diversion efforts of folks like Imperfect Foods and nonprofits like Food Forward.
Nonprofits that harvest and then distribute fresh, local produce to food-insecure communities is what we need to continue to support in order to achieve equitable access to healthy, fresh food. Partnerships with local food pantries, domestic violence shelters, low-income senior centers, and children and family homeless shelters will ensure that folks who don’t have access get access.
Tech is also helpful in creating access to healthy foods for all. In Virginia, a food text line was created to provide food access support and fight the rising food insecurity caused by the pandemic.
Clinics also have a role to play. The Battle Building Pediatrics Clinic team in Virginia launched a food insecurity project that brings regular deliveries of fresh produce to pediatric patients and families in need. Clinics nationwide can model this and facilitate produce delivery to their patients as a prescription, using food as medicine. They can partner with Integrative Nutrition Coaches to support their programming with meal plans and recipes and coaching support.
The Clinic also received a grant from the Ace Hardware Foundation that was extremely generous. This is an example of how private companies can get involved to combat food insecurity.
We all have a role to play in ensuring healthy food access for all, which I believe will change our nation from a culture of dis-ease to one of health.
In this truth, in this faith, we trust. For while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.” ~ Amanda Gorman, National Youth Poet Laureate.