What is Food Insecurity?
According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, food insecurity is defined as the disruption of food intake or eating patterns due to a lack of available financial resources for food at the household level. While many often think that this is mainly a problem in third world countries, it’s a growing problem in the United States. The result of food insecurity comes from various financial struggles such as tight money struggles or lack of employment. Choices then have to be made to ration funds appropriately in order to survive. For example, the choice could be filling up your gas tank with only a few gallons so you can have enough money to put food on the table. For families with children, this can lead to growth issues due to malnourishment.
The ODPHP organizes social determinants into 5 categories that highlight economic stability as being the key issue when it comes to food insecurity. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) even further divides food insecurity into two categories:
- Low food security: “Reports of reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet. Little or no indication of reduced food intake.”
- Very low food security: “Reports of multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.”
Food Insecurity Causes
Often the cause of food insecurity is influenced by varying factors such as income, employment, race and/or disability and can be either temporary or long term. The American Action Forum claims that low-income households were 2.6 times more likely than average households to be food insecure. But race is still a huge factor in food insecurity with African American households facing hunger 2x the rate of white and even Hispanic households. But over the past few years there has been a dramatic increase in food insecurity due to:
Due to the pandemic, food insecurity skyrocketed. From April 2020 to December 2020 more than 25 million households reported they did not have enough food to eat. Although it seems like things are easing with the pandemic, its impact on other factors are continuing to contribute to food insecurity. Source
- Supply Chain
Due to COVID-19, the supply chain was disrupted and has caused unprecedented shortages not only in just the United States but throughout the world. This has led to many finding it difficult to find certain items at grocery stores that many rely on to feed themselves and their families.
- Food Shortages
Because of the disruption of the supply chain, there have been food shortages throughout the country. Almost every item you would normally find at the grocery store has been affected and more often than not you will see empty shelves.
Supply and demand is in full effect now with COVID-19 affecting supply chain issues which lead to food shortages, causing the price of items much higher than they were prior to the start of all of this This has driven up costs of many food staples such as wheat which now is in short supply as a result of sanctions to Russia because of their invasion of Ukraine.
Each of these causes throughout the past few years has ultimately led to an increase in food insecurity, as many aren’t able to have access to certain goods or even afford them at all. Although most everyone is affected by all of these issues, low-income people are hurting the most.
Misconceptions About Food Insecurity
- Hunger is not an issue in the United States
Hunger is a growing problem in the United States. More than 42 millions people may experience food insecurity this year, which includes 13 million people according to Feeding America. The misconception that it doesn’t exist in America is incorrect.
- Food insecurity only impacts certain groups of people, such as those experiencing homelessness.
Food insecurity also does not discriminate and all groups can suffer from it. There are various reasons for hunger and they can’t be linked to a single root cause.
- Food alone can fix food insecurity
Food insecurity is a complex problem and food alone cannot solve it. Hunger and poverty are inextricably linked and the way to address those issues lead to food insecurity.
- Government programs are handouts
In reality, government programs such as SNAP are designed as a supplement and are not meant to provide a sole source for an individual’s entire month’s worth of food. Certain requirements must be fulfilled in order to receive many of these government assistance programs.
Food Insecurity Is Right Here In Your Neighborhood
Food Insecurity is closer than you may think. As many as one in five children in the state of New York could battle hunger every day. 18% of children within Erie County are considered food insecure. To put that in perspective, that’s 34,000 children who may not have regular access to food. The people facing hunger in New York are estimated to need an additional $1,182,879,00 per year to meet their food needs. Source
How Hearts is Making an Impact
As COVID exacerbated the effects of food insecurity, supply chain demands, food shortages, and inflation, Hearts for the homeless reacted quickly to attain resources in order to keep food on the table for individuals and families as well as following through with our mission to feed the homeless.
As the pandemic slows down, Hearts has identified that there is still a need for our services to those in our local community, on the streets, in shelters, and partner agencies, and continues on with the mission we’ve been carrying out since 1990 — feeding the poor and homeless populations and combating food insecurity.
Hearts Harvest Food Pantry
Hearts operates the Harvest Food Pantry that provides nourishment through groceries and other items and utilizes a “client choice” distribution method that allows individuals and families to choose foods that suit their needs. If you wish to learn more, make a donation or partner with us, please visit the link:
Hearts Mobile Food Pantry
The Mobile Food Pantry serves as a monthly supplement to Hearts’ onsite food pantry, Harvest Food Pantry. It provides an additional food resource of which pantry patrons can come to as often as we have them.
Hearts Mobile Soup Kitchen
The Mobile Soup Kitchen serves meals to the homeless and poor and operates 5 nights a week, 52 weeks per year. Our team of dedicated volunteers serve hot meals, sandwiches, drinks, companionship and information regarding helpful services in the area.
In partnership with homeless shelters and agencies, Hearts kitchen also provides hot meals and sandwiches, 7 days a week, to the homeless who are being sheltered by them.