Food Insecurity: What does it mean?

I recently had the opportunity to view the documentary A Plate at the Table. It is a thought-provoking documentary exploring food insecurity in the United States. The documentary did a great job at portraying real families and their difficulties in this area. I decided to further explore the topic and share my findings. You can follow the link in the Call to Action section for more information on the documentary.

As American families continue to climb out of the economic recession, many households are still faced with the challenge of having a consistent or nutritious meal on the dinner table. On a daily, more than one-third of households are faced with the dilemma of choose between paying for food, rent, utilities, insurance, childcare, or transportation. It is estimated that in 2011, 50.1 million people lived in food insecure households – with 16.7 million being children under the age of 18. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food insecure or insecurity is when “households are uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food to meet the needs of all their members because they had insufficient money or other resources for food.”

Let’s review some more statistics to bring this closer to home*

  • 17.9 million – the number households suffered from food insecurity
  • 4.8 million – the number of seniors suffering from food insecurity
  • 36.8% – the percent of households headed by single women suffering from food insecurity
  • 24.9% – the percent of households headed by single men suffering from food insecurity
  • 25.1% – the percent of African-American households suffering from food insecurity
  • 26.2% – the percent of Hispanic households suffering from food insecurity

*Source: Feeding America, 2011.

Despite these alarming statistics, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed legislation that would reduce benefits and increase requirements to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. If passed, the legislation is likely to impact nearly 4 million households, including children, active and retired military personnel, senior citizens, and full-time workers needing assistance to buy food. The legislation also makes it more difficult for adults to eligibility requirement to receive assistance. For more information on the bill, visit

Still not intrigued about food insecurity and what it means for the future of our country? With proper nutrition being important for the physical and mental well-being of all people, its role in child development is crucial. Improper nutrition impacts three major problems for communities and youth: heath, education, and job readiness.

Hungry children are more likely to be sick, often having to be hospitalized; thus, increasing insurance and healthcare costs. These children are also more likely to suffer developmental impairments that limit their physical, intellectual and emotional development.

Hungry children face more challenges in the classroom. They are more likely to perform poorly in school and have lower academic achievement and attendance. These students also have problems developing social and behavioral skills.

Hungry children will also impact our workforce. These children are not as well prepared physically, mentally, and emotionally creating a noncompetitive workforce with lower levels of educational and technical skills. Without intervention, these children will likely be greeted by the workforce with minimum-wage jobs and little opportunity.

Call to action

A Plate at the Table is a great documentary. Learn more about it at the link below.

Feeding America is standing at the frontline to combat food insecurity and child hunger. Their website provides a list of ways to take action or donate their cause. You can visit their website at the link below.

While it unlikely that this legislation will past, it is still imperative that your representative hear your voice. Contact your representative and tell them to continue funding SNAP benefits for hungry families and that you do not want cuts to the program. You can find out your representative by following the link below.