by: Stephanie Stinnett
In 2016 1 out of 8 Americans were food insecure. That equals to about 42 million people, 13 million of those being children. Food insecurity also is not strictly for those Americans who are below the poverty line. It effects both sides of the poverty line. But what does it mean to be food insecure? What exactly is it?
The U.S Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. The USDA has broken food insecurity into two categories. Low food security and very low food security. Low food security is defined as reports of reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet. Little or no indication of reduced food intake. very low food security is defined as reports of multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.
There are a number of programs in place to help some Americans that are dealing with food insecurity. There is SNAP, commonly known as food stamps, that was designed to help Americans under the poverty line with securing healthy food. In June of 2018 there were 39 million people relying on SNAP for food. Benefits are loaded straight onto a card and can be used at almost every grocery store for cold items, or items that have not been prepared in a deli for example.
WIC is another program to help securing healthy foods for woman, infants, and children up to age five. WIC typically has a higher income threshold than food stamps. WIC’s mission is to give women, infants, and children up to age 5 the nutritional food and education about nutrition, including breastfeeding support for new mothers.
There are also several programs in place to help seniors, such as the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) which aims to improve the health of low-income elderly persons at least 60 years of age by supplementing their diets with nutritious food. There is also the Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) which is designed to provide fresh and nutritious locally grown fruits, vegetables, herbs, and honey from farmers’ markets and roadside stands to low-income seniors. In 2017, 811,809 people received SFMNP benefits.
There are also community wide programs to help this living with food insecurity. Many local churches will set up soup kitchens and food pantries to help their local community. A lot of the soup kitchens have no income requirements.
The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted meal program that operates in public schools, private schools, as well as child care institutions. The program provides nutritional, reduced or free lunches to children each school day. Some schools have even received funding to continue the program all year long, so that children can eat a nutritional lunch almost every day of the year.
You may be reading this article you may be wondering how you can help. You can donate to Feeding America, which is a network of food banks around the country whose goal is to end food insecurity. You can donate your time or some food to a local food pantry. You can also speak or write to your elected officials about expanding the programs that are put in place to help this dealing with food insecurity.
If people like you and me gathered together we could help to solve this issue. It is very important for communities to work together to take care of the people living within. Together we can fight food insecurity.
“Food Assistance Programs.” What's In Food | Nutrition.gov, www.nutrition.gov/subject/food-assistance-programs.
Lewis, Markita. “5 Ways You Can Help Battle Food Insecurity and Malnutrition.” Spoon University, 20 Oct. 2015, spoonuniversity.com/lifestyle/5-ways-can-help-battle-food-insecurity.
“National School Lunch Program (NSLP).” Food and Nutrition Service, www.fns.usda.gov/nslp/national-school-lunch-program-nslp.
“What Is Food Insecurity in America?” Hunger and Health, hungerandhealth.feedingamerica.org/understand-food-insecurity/.