What is Food Insecurity and What Are Ways to Combat It?
You may have heard the term food insecurity used interchangeably with hunger and malnutrition. While these terms are related, they are not the same thing. Let’s explore ways to combat all three issues simultaneously.
What Is Food Insecurity?
An easy way to understand this issue is by using a sliding scale. Starvation is the most obvious. You’re ill or dying because of a chronic lack of food. Hunger means you aren’t getting enough calories. While this hurts your productivity and impairs children’s ability to learn, it is not fatal. Yet it can increase one’s risk of dying if they become ill. Malnutrition is often caused by a chronic lack of adequate food, but it isn’t always due to hunger. For example, a surprising number of people who get enough or even too many calories suffer malnutrition due to poor food choices or a lack of affordable healthy food. Someone on SNAP (food stamps) benefits may be eating more than 2000 calories a day. However, the carbohydrate rich food that they can afford doesn’t deliver the vital micronutrients they need like potassium, vitamin A or calcium.
Food insecurity refers to the situation where someone doesn’t always have reliable access to adequate, healthy food. A good example is when someone has a seasonal income or an irregular work schedule. If their income drops, they may not have the money to buy enough food or healthy food. While they may not be hungry when dinner goes from pricier pork chops to cheaper pasta, they aren’t getting enough protein. Food insecurity also manifests as skipping meals altogether to save money before payday.
What Are Some Ways to Combat Food Insecurity?
There are a number of ways to combat food insecurity without calling for more government intervention. These solutions are things you can choose to do today or can cultivate in your community.
Set Up Small Food Banks
Everyone can donate food to food banks that then distribute aid to the needy. You can make it more personal by setting up a free little pantry or stocking a community fridge in a church or community center. Those who need food can simply take what they need, while others can make donations as they see fit.
Plant a Community Garden
Community gardens can take the form of plots that anyone can reserve and plant. This allows people in apartments and retirement communities to garden. This gives them a source of fresh food and a sense of purpose in their lives. Community gardens can also be tended by volunteers and nonprofits, with the food distributed through food banks. This makes fruits and vegetables available to those in need. It has the side benefit of saving these nonprofits money since they don’t have to pay for fresh produce.
You could multiply the benefits by collecting the excess produce from private gardens and distributing them to those in need. However, this doesn’t eliminate the need these charities have for canned fruit and canned vegetables since those keep for a long time and don’t need refrigeration to remain edible. This is the same reason why they reject fresh dairy, though canned milk is fine.
Donate Money to Food Banks and Related Nonprofits
Charities cannot always balance the supply of items people donate to the demand for them. A classic example is when charities donate turkeys and seasonal food items before Thanksgiving and Christmas, but there is a de facto drought of donations after the New Year. The solution is to donate money to food banks and charities dealing with hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity.
If you run a business, you can donate food, supplies or money to such food banks. Companies can give back by partnering with charities such as Feeding America allowing for community reach to extend further. These partnerships are most significant when the company and its leaders really stand behind the cause and have a connection to the solution.
For example, Christopher Pair, President of Operations and International at Plexus Worldwide, has personal experience with hunger and passionately combats the global food crisis.
Nonprofits can tailor their offerings to the preferences of a given community or individuals in need. For example, many recipients need baby formula, but this is rarely ever donated. Furthermore, charity that is giving someone baby food can also give them the diapers they need.
Collect Items for Those in Need
Food banks are ideal distribution points for food, but they’re also a great way to distribute items that SNAP and WIC don’t cover. For example, food stamps don’t pay for toothpaste, feminine hygiene products or toilet paper. You can even donate the small samples of shampoo and body lotion you’ve collected and then donate them to a charity that will find them a good home.
Combating Food Insecurity Begins With You
Studies suggest that one in ten households in America are food insecure, and government programs don’t always meet their needs. This is why private action is required to help address these issues.