Do you have access to healthy food whenever you're hungry? If so, it means you're not one of the nearly fifteen million American households that experience food insecurity at least some time during the year, according to a 2017 study conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture. That is a staggering statistic to comprehend: millions go without full access to nutritious, affordable food every year.
However, many communities are coming together and finding ways to combat food insecurity. It's an inspiring movement that you can be a part of, too.
What Is Food Insecurity?
The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion defines food insecurity as "the disruption of food intake or eating patterns because of lack of money and other resources." There are different levels of food security, ranging from low to high. On the high food security end is a household with easy access to plenty of healthy food, while on the lowest end, a household will have little to no access to healthy food due to lack of funds or availability.
According to Feeding America, there are several causes for food insecurity. A family can experience food insecurity after something as common as a job layoff, an accident, or an unexpected large bill. When situations like these arise, it can place a family in the devastating position of having to choose between paying the bills or eating. Poverty can lead to a lack of access to nutritious and affordable food, leaving families struggling and on the brink of hunger, homelessness, and poor health.
Ways You Can Help in Your Community
You might be surprised to know that there are people living within your own community that struggle with poverty or hunger. According to Feeding America, not all of those who suffer from food insecurity qualify for national programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which helps those in need afford food.
The American Journal of Nursing states that the most vulnerable groups are single-parent families, racial or ethnic minorities, those living in large cities, and people with a low socioeconomic status, among many other factors.
If you want to help, there are several ways to combat food insecurity in your community:
- Donate non-perishable food items to a local food drive or food bank.
- Volunteer at local soup kitchens or feeding programs to help supply those in need of a meal.
- Donate money to national hunger organizations or start your own fundraiser and give the money you raise to a local food charity.
- Sign up with a local hunger organization to deliver meals or sort and pack food items.
- Contact your local elected officials and encourage them to support legislation regarding healthy dietary guidelines and food assistance programs. On the national level, contact your congressional representative about food and agriculture bills currently in congress, listed on the GovTrack website.
For more inspiring ideas on how to give back to your community, check out the @tomsofmaine Natural Inspiration Pinterest board.
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Why It's Good
You can make a difference in the lives of those struggling with access to healthy and affordable food, starting today. Getting involved with local organizations that work to identify and combat food insecurity will help to improve the well-being of your community.