Food Insecurity and Its Impact on Health

Food Insecurity and Its Impact on Health

According to Feeding America, 42.2 million Americans (13 percent of our population) live in food insecure households, with 6.3 million experiencing extreme food insecurity. Children make up one-third of this number. Health risks and costs have been shown to escalate with the severity of food insecurity. Tackling this problem at the grassroots is, clearly, essential.

What is food insecurity?

According to the USDA, food insecurity is defined when “access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources.”  In contrast, a food secure household has consistent, dependable access to food for active, healthy living, all the time.

Food insecurity and health outcomes

Dr. Hilary Seligman, Lead Scientist and Senior Medical Advisor at Feeding America, has reviewed the connection between food insecurity and health outcomes. She reports that food insecurity causes poorer health outcomes across the lifespan, affecting both physical and mental health. Children are at the greatest risk of health issues, while pregnant women are also at risk of nutritional deficiencies occurring in both mother and child.

Adults facing food insecurity are prone to chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, as well as anxiety and depression. Onset of disease affects their ability to raise families and increases incapacity during aging years. All these factors correlate to increasing health care expenses, burdening both the individuals and the welfare system.

The cycle of food insecurity

Even if the periods of food insecurity are temporary, they tend to recur in cycles, with devastating long-term consequences. Food insecurity promotes coping habits such as reliance on low-cost, high-calorie, and nutrient-deficient foods, skipping meals, and consuming unbalanced diets. People often must choose between food and needed medication or other basics, which can exacerbate health conditions.

Even when the period of insecurity fades away, acquired diet patterns persist, leading to a higher risk of chronic disease. This increases health care expenses, reduces employability, and further limits earning capacity, which worsens the food insecurity problem. Statistics show that the level of food insecurity proportionally increases average health care costs per person, which have a much bigger price tag than the food itself.

Federal and charitable programs

Federal food assistance programs currently feed 59 percent of households facing food insecurity through a variety of programs. Feeding America, a non-profit network of more than 200 food banks, feeds about 46.5 million people every year, 72 percent of who live at or below the federal poverty level. They sponsor the National School Lunch Program that provides free and reduced-price lunches to children across the country web link.

At MMB Advantages, we support the expansion and continuation of this work. We are committed to ensuring the safety and health of our vulnerable populations. Our mission is to build bridges between organizations and create the synergy needed to make the world a better place for those who need it the most.

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