I’m in a teaching mood today. I don’t know if you are aware of food insecurity in this country or what it even means.
Food Insecurity is defined as:
Limited or uncertain access to foods of insufficient quality or quantity to sustain a healthy or active life1.
In this country we have over 35 million people who are food insecure and of those about 13 million are children1. There are a couple of misconceptions about food insecurity, including that there is not enough food and only the homeless are hungry. Not true on both counts. World agriculture produces enough food, in fact it produces over 2700 kcalories per person on the planet. It’s all about distribution, as a country we consume over 3700 kcalories per person1. As for who is hungry, in 2011 it was 15% of the US population2. This includes women, children, the elderly and the working poor. Low-income communities also have to contend with food deserts. Food deserts are defined by the CDC as: areas that lack access to affordable fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lowfat milk, and other foods that make up the full range of a healthy diet3.
I also want to point out how much food we waste. On a global scale we waste 1.3 billion tons of food for consumer use annually4. And as a country we throw away 40% of our food which comes to about $165B a year!5
There are several government programs in place to help. Supplemental Nutrition Asisstance Program better known as SNAP help to feed about 46 million people every month, they help struggling families get food on the table6. We also have WIC (Women, Infants & Children) that helps young mothers care for thier babies. WIC also provides nutrition education, which is so important for the younger demographic – you teach a woman and you teach a family7.
For older Americans we have congregate programs that include nutritional screening, counseling and education. They also provide a social element that is important for this age group. There is also the familiar Meals on Wheels that provides home delivered meals, though it does not address socialization and with so many people to feed the volunteers don’t really get to spend time with the people they are dropping off food to8.
Finaly we have the school meal programs. The school lunch program fed over 31 million kids in 2011 and the breakfast program fed over 12 million9. In many cases the meals that children get in schools are the only meals they get that day.
So what can you do? Well you can stop wasting food. When dining out share meals or wrap up leftovers for a second meal. When buying fresh food buy small amounts of what you need. When storing canned foods use the first in/first out method, using older items first ensuring that they get used before expiration dates. Use clear storage when possible because out of sight means out of mind.
You can also Volunteer. Dosomething.org is a great resource for finding local soup kitchens. In Jersey we have Jon Bonjovi’s restaurant, Soul Kitchen, that allows patrons to pay what they can so that want to contribute more for their meal can.
If you think hunger can’t affect you or isn’t your problem then all I have to say there but by the grace of god because no one plans on going hungry, sometimes hard times fall on people that don’t deserve it. I keep thinking of those left homeless by the storm. I hope none of my readers ever have to experience this but I do hope that you at least learned something today.
1. Whitney, E. N., & Rolfes, S. R. (2011). Hunger and the Global Environement. InUnderstanding nutrition (12th ed., pp. 685-699). Australia: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
2. Coleman-Jensen, A., Nord, M., Andrews, M., & Carlson, S. United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. (2011). Household food security in the United States in 2011 (141). Retrieved January 9, 2013 from USDA: Economic Research Service website: http://www.ers.usda.gov/media/884525/err141.pdf
4.Gustavsson, J., Cederberg, C., Sonesson, U., van Otterdijk, R., & Meybeck, A. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), (2011). Global food losses and food waste. Retrieved on January 9, 2013 from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) website: http://www.fao.org/docrep/014/mb060e/mb060e00.pdf
5.Natural Resources Defense Council (2012, August 21). NRDC: Press Release – New Report: America Trashes Forty Percent of Food Supply. Natural Resources Defense Council – The Earth’s Best Defense | NRDC. Retrieved January 9, 2013, from http://www.nrdc.org/media/2012/120821.asp
6.USDA Food & Nutrition Service (2012, October 4). Eligibility. Food & Nutrition Service Home Page. Retrieved January 9, 2013, from http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/applicant_recipients/eligibility.htm
7.USDA Food & Nutrition Service (2011, October 31). WIC Prescreening Tool. USDA Web Services Log-In. Retrieved January 9, 2013, from http://wic.fns.usda.gov/wps/pages/start.jsf
8.Administration on Aging (2012, April 24). Nutrition Services. Administration on Aging. Retrieved January 9, 2013, from http://www.aoa.gov/AoA_programs/HCLTC/Nutrition_Services/index.aspx#purpose
9. USDA Food & Nutrition Service (2012, August). National School Lunch Program. Food & Nutrition Service Home Page. Retrieved January 9, 2013, from http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/Lunch/AboutLunch/NSLPFactSheet.pdf