Some of our neighbors don’t know when they will eat next; or how they will pay for it, or if it will be enough food.  This is called food insecurity.  Children, the elderly, and low-income families in our community are the most likely populations to struggle with getting enough to eat.

Others in our community have difficulty getting to a grocery stores or purchasing healthy, nutritious food.  This could be because they live in far from a full-service grocery store or because of transportation problems or because they cannot afford healthier foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products.  These factors contribute to poor nutrition and ultimately poor health.

WHY IT MATTERS

Food insecurity and low food access contribute to many health problems including dental disease and diabetes.  The long-term effects of chronic food insecurity and eating poor quality foods are higher rates of chronic disease and higher rates of premature disability and death.  With limited access to healthy food, people experiencing a chronic disease such as diabetes have difficulty

Children who are hungry or who eat a poor quality diet perform lower on reading and mathematics.  In addition, these children often have poor social skills.  Children who are food insecure are also more likely to suffer from asthma, dental problems, and anemia and more likely to be hospitalized.  Food insecurity is also related to higher rates of absenteeism, hyperactivity and other behavioral problems in children.

A surprising fact is that hunger and a poor quality diet are associated with being overweight. All too often the most available choices in a food desert are fast foods or other high-fat, calorie-dense snacks and prepared food.   Maintaining a healthy weight is much more difficult when meals are sporadic or of low nutritional value.

A worker who is hungry or who eats a poor-quality diet is less productive than an employee who eats a healthy diet on a regular basis.  Due to higher rates of chronic disease and obesity, food insecure workers miss more days from work and have higher medical costs than well fed employees. 

Hunger is often thought of as a problem of the poor.  While the poor do struggle with finding and affording adequate food, food insecurity is not limited to just the low income.  Seniors living on fixed incomes or with limited mobility, working families who experience a financial crisis, and people living in rural areas of Escambia and Santa Rosa are all vulnerable to experiencing hunger and limited access to healthy food.