Food Insecurity. Until a few years ago, I had never heard the term let alone knew what it meant or its consequences.
Food security is more than having food to eat; it is about having healthy foods available. Food insecurity, on the other hand, is the inability of access to adequate food because of money or other resource constraints such as transportation. Although part of the hunger problem, food insecurity is actually far more reaching in our communities than we probably like to think. People can be eating food and still starving.
In many low-income neighborhoods, there are no grocery stores nearby. Without a car, it is challenging to get to one. Fast food restaurants and convenience stores understand the importance of being within walking distance of neighborhoods. As a result, it is often easier to get to them than to a grocery store, so that is where people are going to buy their food. Unfortunately, these establishments often do not stock healthy food choices. Unhealthy food delivers calories, but not much in the way of nutrients. Without proper nutrition, the body and the mind suffer.
Millennials, the largest and most diverse generation in the United States (15 economic facts about Millennials, 2014, p.5), are “extremely vulnerable to food insecurity” (Feighery et al, 2011, p.4). It impacts their educational opportunities and, consequently, their futures. With school violence, bullying, and youth suicide on the rise, it is worth looking at food insecurity and its consequences.
Children and youth who are food insecure are often sick or obese and many exhibit signs of depression, hyperactivity or aggressive behavior (Ernst, 2015, p.5). According to Cook & Jeng (2009 ):
Though food insecurity is only one factor in the complex mix of influences
that predispose individuals to criminal behavior, its very real influence on brain
architecture and chemistry at an early age, and its impact on social and emotional
health during critical years of socialization make it responsible for at least a fraction
of the enormous costs that crime imposes on the broader society. (p. 23)
Another consequence of food insecurity in adolescents is the increased likelihood that they will have suicidal thoughts and that they will act upon them (Alaimo, Olson, & Frongillo, 2002, para. 24).
While doing research, I learned about the Golden Harvest Food Bank in Augusta, GA. I immediately liked the programs they offered and that 96% of the money donated goes toward those programs. I decided to raise money for their Pantry Pack Program which “provides local middle- and high-school children with a supply of weekend food and basic hygiene items. Middle- and high-schoolers struggling with hunger also face the ‘weekend meal gap’ when school meals are not available.” (https://goldenharvest.org)
Being aware of any problem is only the first step in solving it and, as wonderful as hashtag activism is for spreading awareness, nothing changes without action. This holiday season I want to do something toward eliminating the problem of food insecurity. I hope you will join me by donating to the Golden Harvest Food Bank (Donate button in the upper right corner of your screen) or to a food bank in your area. Thanks!
15 economic facts about millennials. (2014, October). The Council of Economic Advisers.
Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/millennials_report.pdf
Alaimo, K., Olson, C.M., & Frongillo, E.A. (2002). Family food insufficiency, but not low family
income, is positively associated with dysthymia and suicide symptoms in adolescents. The Journal of Nutrition. Retrieved from http://jn.nutrition.org/content/132/4/719.long
Cook, J. & Jeng, K. (2009 ) Child food insecurity: the economic impact on our nation. Feeding
America and The ConAgra Foods Foundation. Retrieved from
Ernst, M. (2015, January 31). Using summer lab schools tackle education inequality in Georgia.
Feighery, j., Ingram, p., Li, S., & Redding, S. (2011, May 3). Intersections of youth & food
security. Retrieved from http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/Pnadu952.pdf
Golden Harvest Food Bank. Pantry packs. Retrieved from https://goldenharvest.org/programs/child-hunger