Food Insecurity: A Relevant Issue

Elise Deming, MS, RDN, LDN

Food insecurity is a common and widely-spread issue throughout cities across America, including Philadelphia. Food insecurity can impact the health, success, and quality of life of people of all ages, especially children. Although food insecurity is a prominent issue, there are many ways to bring aid to those who are food insecure.

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What is it?

Food insecurity is, “a household’s inability to provide enough food for every person to live an active, healthy life” as defined by the USDA. To many, food is a non-issue; readily available when needed or wanted. However, this is not true for everyone. It is reported 1 in 8 Americans struggle with hunger. Philadelphia contributes to this statistic, ranking among the top ten “hungriest” cities in the United States. In 2015, Feeding America estimated 1 in 5 Philadelphia citizens go hungry. This is 19.3% of the population or over 300,000 individuals. These numbers have declined since 2014 data, which reported 21.7% of Philadelphia’s population as food insecure.

Causes

The issue of food insecurity can result from numerous contributing factors, but the most common cause is a lack of means to purchase food. Indicators of extreme or low food security include a decreased intake of food for household members and altered normal eating patterns. When experiencing food insecurity individuals are not able to afford balanced meals. Therefore, they may decrease the size of their meals or skip meals, experience hunger but do not eat, experience weight loss due to lack of food consumption, or skip meals for an entire day. Additionally, many who encounter food insecurity also face energy insecurity, an additional obstacle for low income households. This can result in complications when attempting to refrigerate or cook the food these individuals do have.

Effects

Food insecurity can result in negative health consequences for all people experiencing this issue. A lack of adequate nourishment can bring about many undesirable health outcomes such
as:

-Weight loss
-Malnourishment
-Poor wound healing
-Decreased energy
-Lowered immune system
-Higher risk of chronic disease development
-Improper or decreased growth in children
-Decreased cognitive ability
-Increased behavioral and emotional problems in children

Many of the above health consequences result in increased medical costs and medication expenses. Consequently, the continuous cycle of food insecurity, poverty, and poor health outcomes is pushed onward in these instances.

How to Help

-Although food insecurity is a large and daunting issue, there are things anyone can do to help people facing this problem.
-Volunteering at or donating food to your local food bank
-Donating to Feeding America can help aid those in need
-Help build and grow a community garden in areas of need
-Get involved in the advocacy behind the issue of food insecurity
-Host a community food drive.

Food insecurity is a common problem throughout American cities, including Philadelphia. This is one issue who’s trickle down effects can easily be seen in the health outcomes of individuals. Simple acts of selflessness such as donating time can help those experiencing food insecurity.