By Meghan Robinson, University of Idaho Dietetics Student
Underserved, unemployed, and unfit: words that are used to illustrate the demographics of the food insecure. What is food insecurity? Some define food insecure as the poor and neglected. Although they are related, many other factors can classify the food insecure. In short, “the food insecure” is those who do not know when and where their next meal will be. The opposite is “food security”; and according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, it is a time when people have physical and economic access to food to meet their dietary needs for a healthful life.
Food insecurity exists in every county, every state, and every country. The United States Census Bureau can spotlight populations affected the greatest. People of all ages are hit with hunger, including senior citizens, children, and the working class. Let’s look at Idaho’s statistics, courtesy of the Idaho Foodbank:
- 15.8% of Idaho’s residents are food insecure – 252,060 people, or 1 in 6.
- 21.6% of Idaho’s children are food insecure – 91,730 children, or 1 in 5.
- Of the 252,060 food-insecure people, 50% have incomes below 130% of the poverty margin.
The data inches towards reason and intervention. What does the food insecure do from here? For half of Idaho’s residents whose income is below 130% of the poverty cutoff, government assistance can join in. Some of these programs are well known, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Women, Infants, Children (WIC). For many others, having an income above 185% of the poverty line makes them ineligible for assistance; they must rely on private donations and charities such as the Idaho Foodbank.
Education and access to resources are at the top of the needs list for prevention of nutrition-related problems in those who are food insecure. Proper nutrition is critical to development in children, and without it children may suffer from physical, behavioral, and social challenges. For the aging population, many have limitations in mobility and invest their funds on medications, leaving them with inadequate resources for food. The decision to pay for food or other living expenses is a common worry for the food insecure, but education about food access may help.
Identifying the problem can lead to intervention. Awareness can lead to education. Education can lead to resources. Together we can impact a community that suffers without food. Chances are…we all know someone who is food insecure.
If looking for ways to take action or for more information visit, www.feedingamerica.org