18 Mar 2016

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What is Food Insecurity?

From Missouri Foundation for Health’s “Health Equity Series-Food Insecurity”

There are four basic necessities in life: air, shelter, water and food. Food is not only necessary to function both physically and socially, but also plays an important economic role in society. Living with little or no food is a form of deprivation that impacts one’s health and well-being.

Currently, there are two widely accepted definitions of food security that come from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The USDA defines food security as “access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.” Whereas, the FAO defines food security as a situation that “exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”
Components of Food Security
In 1996, the FAO distinguished three components of food security: availability, access and utilization. The availability of food refers to if sufficient quantities of food are available on a consistent basis. Access to food refers to if people have sufficient resources to obtain food for a nutritious diet. Utilization of food refers to the amount and kind of foods people consume within their households, as well as appropriate use based on knowledge of basic nutrition. any household weak in any of the three components experience a food insecurity. For example, though the United States produces plenty of food(availability), not all populations have equal access, through lack of transportation or money, to the food that is produced. You may households that have access to an available supply of food, but lack knowledge of how to prepare it.

Common characteristics of those who are food insecure include: low-income households, households headed by a single parent, households headed by an African-American or Hispanic person, households living in a principal city of a metropolitan area, individuals who are renters, individuals who are younger in age and individuals who are less educated. Households that contain an elderly person were less likely to be food insecure than households without an elderly person. Moreover, those households with an adult who had a four-year college degree were less likely to be food insecure than those without a four-year degree.

Challenges related to food security are different in rural areas compared to urban areas. For instance, employment opportunities in rural areas are often low-wage jobs. Residents in rural areas have a harder time finding work and have a greater chance of being under or unemployed compared to urban residents. In addition, when compared to urban areas, education levels are lower in rural areas. According to the U.S. Census Bureau 2008 – 2012 American Community Survey, the working age population (adults ages 25 – 64) in rural areas were 14 percent less likely to have a college degree than in urban areas.41 In 2012, there were 3 million (15%) rural households that were considered food insecure. The irony of this situation is that rural areas are typically the source of the food that feeds our nation.

Like unemployment, an increase in the price of food is associated with an increase in food insecurity. During the most recent recession, food prices increased and then remained unchanged when the recession ended. However, when both employment and income improved in 2012, food insecurity levels remained high, suggesting that the increased price of food and inflation are responsible for this outcome. Food prices were seen as the strongest association of food insecurity for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients.

The face of hunger is now changing and the usual stereotype of who is food insecure is no longer accurate. The economic downturn of 2007 to 2009 brought a new face to hunger, which includes many in the middle class (working poor and underemployed). This introduces
new problems because their incomes are often too high to be eligible for food assistance programs but too low to obtain enough nutritious food.

Read  MFH’s entire report Health Equity Series – Food Insecurityfood-insecurity

 

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