Since 2015, we’ve been on a mission to help end hunger. In California and beyond, we’ve already donated over 1.2 million meals through our one-for-one program—and we’re just getting started. In honor of World Food Day on October 16, we’re putting a spotlight on food insecurity all month long.
“Food insecurity” is the condition of living without reliable access to adequate nutrition. Lack of access may be due to geographic location (i.e., living in a “food desert”), socioeconomic factors or both.
While our country is often portrayed as the land of opportunity and excess, the United States also is home to a staggering hunger problem. Food insecurity is far-reaching—and in your neighborhood. It exists in every county in America. An estimated 1 in 8 people struggles with food insecurity, and 1 in 5 children doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from.
Among those with limited food resources, the overwhelming majority (79%) report purchasing low-quality, unhealthy food. Two-thirds (66%) said they have had to choose between food and medical care, and over one-third (35%) have pawned or sold personal property for food money.
The impact of these difficult decisions and the related stress are great and long-lasting.
For example, food-insecure people are more at risk for medical problems, including Type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. In a 2011 study of Latina women living in an urban setting, those with very low food security were 3.3 times more likely to have Type-2 diabetes regardless of employment status and lifestyle characteristics.
They’re also considered more at risk for psychological and behavioral health issues, as suggested by a 2016 study that assessed the mental wellness of people around the world with varying levels of food insecurity. Andrew D. Jones, Ph.D., offered that “anxiety related to one’s ability to acquire sufficient food in the future may be provoked even under conditions of mild food insecurity” and that because people may resort to getting food in socially unacceptable ways (such as begging or stealing), “feelings of shame and guilt… could compound pre-existing anxiety… to yield even poorer mental health conditions.”
Food-insecure young people (estimated at nearly 16 million students) are thought to have greater struggles in school. The New York Times recently profiled the complications unique to food-insecure college students and what’s being done—by students, universities and governments—to address the growing need as education costs are at an all-time high.
As we rally around World Food Day on October 16, let’s work together to improve access to nutritious food, reduce food waste and address hunger in our local communities.