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Food insecurity threatens resilience

The ability to have a stable and reliable supply of food is an important indicator of resilience. Establishing food security is a concern for public officials, community leaders, families and individuals across the globe. Often, populations which do not have reliable access to food are made vulnerable to a host of other conditions which threaten their resilience. Lack of affordability and physical access to food are two of the primary reasons families and communities in the United States struggle to maintain a reliable, nutritious diet.

Children in Texas participate in a United States Department of Agriculture program to combat food insecurity (Source USDA)
Children in Texas participate in a United States Department of Agriculture program to combat food insecurity (Source USDA)

Food in security is defined by the United States Department of Agriculture in ranges. Food secure individuals can have no reported indications of food access limitations, or one or two reported indications. The indications can include experiencing anxiety due to a potential shortage of food, or lack of food sufficiency. Those who are food insecure report reduced quality, variety, or desirability in their diets. Those have very low food insecurity report multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake. From the USDA’s survey of individuals whom have very low food security, “98 percent reported having worried that their food would run out before they got money to buy more.” 

Food insecurity is an issue in every state in America. In Cleveland, Ohio 16% of residents are some level of food insecure, and in Fresno, California, one third of residents reported not knowing what the source of their next meal would be. Across the United States, almost one in eight Americans struggle with food insecurity, a higher rate than recorded during the Great Depression. The Urban Institute recently published a tool to map food insecurity levels across the United States and their related risk factors such as high housing costs and economic challenges. With this tool, the Institute hopes to develop more effective ways to tackle the combinations of factors which keep Americans from establishing food security. 

Food security is a clear indicator of resilience. Communities with high food security also tend to demonstrate characteristics such as lower rates of housing cost burden, higher standards of physical and financial health, as well as higher incomes and employment rates. The nexus of these conditions reflect the connection of resources that create resilient communities. Developing programs which establish food security in at-risk communities in addition to addressing the many related indicators of societal well-being can bolster wide-spread resilience. 

Sources and Further Reading

Definitions of Food SecurityUSDA

On World Food Day, united in the fight against hunger at home and abroad The Hill

Disrupting Food Insecurity- The Urban Institute 

Pinning Down Food Insecurity in the U.S.The U.S. News and World Report