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Living Healthy

Preventing Food Insecurity Starts in Your Community

August 31, 2021

Food insecurity can take many forms: A young child arrives at school with an empty stomach. Your neighbor waits in line at the local food bank. Your friend confides in you that she isn't sure how she will feed her family before her next paycheck arrives.

Chances are you or someone you care about has had a hard time getting enough food. Food insecurity is defined as “a lack of consistent access to enough food for every person in a household to live an active, healthy life.” It is the most reported unmet social need in the United States. It can also be temporary or last a long time. Feeding America projects that this year, over 42 million people across the nation, including more than 13 million children, may experience food insecurity.

Consistent access to nutritious food is vital for health and well-being and is a key component to our overall health. Those who lack it are at higher risk for many health conditions, like high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. 

Fighting food insecurity means expanding access to healthy, nutritious food. Many organizations are working hard to end hunger and help individuals and families live a healthier life.

Why are so many Americans lacking food?

Nobody should have to choose between food and other necessities. The United States is one of the wealthiest nations in the world and produces vast amounts of food. Yet every community in the United States includes people facing food insecurity.

Americans may experience food insecurity for many reasons. They may not have enough money to cover all their expenses. They may not have transportation to make it to a grocery store or a food pantry. Or they may live in an area with no supermarkets nearby, which is sometimes called a food desert.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult for even more people to get nutritious food. Some estimate that two out of five food bank visitors in 2020 were people experiencing food insecurity for the first time. Food pantries had more clients and had to create new processes for taking care of them.

What are organizations doing to prevent food insecurity?

To help prevent food insecurity, organizations that address hunger have partnered with healthcare companies.

For example, a program called Food is Medicine screens patients for food insecurity. This program is a partnership between Feeding America and the Anthem Foundation. In its first year, the program screened more than 91,000 people. Those experiencing food insecurity were referred to resources including onsite food pantries at medical facilities.

Some food banks have experts who offer consultations for clients with health conditions like diabetes. When people with diabetes get support at a food bank, they may have a higher quality diet and better health outcomes, according to research from Feeding America.

Another Anthem program includes delivering pre-packaged, medically tailored meals for those released from the hospital. There was a 36% reduction in hospital readmissions among patients who received the meals.

How can I make a difference?

September is Hunger Action Month, which is a great time to get involved. If you or someone you care about is struggling with food insecurity, start by learning more about the resources in your community.

Also consider donating food or volunteering at a local food bank or meal program. Food pantries across America help individual communities.

Several national and local nonprofit organizations work to give nutritious food to those in need. Some of the most widespread are:

You can also talk to your doctor about your concerns. Healthcare providers in many areas have resources to help their patients find nutritious food.

Food insecurity is a bigger problem than ever. Working together to reduce its impact will build stronger, healthier communities.