Food Insecurity Within the US: what Now?

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The nation’s food supply impacts each and every person living within the United States to a significant degree. Though we have plenty to be grateful for, there are many issues surrounding the need for this food to reach to entire US population efficiently. The grocery stores so frequently visited by typical Americans are full of ample and fresh products yet something is lacking. Communities all throughout the US house families struggling to feed their loved ones while at home, at work, or at school. Some people are faced with the choice between eating and paying the bills or meeting other daily needs. This Issue not only address the fact that people need enough to eat. This issue addresses the process that happens between the food being grown and it reaching the dinner table through a multitude of solutions.

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Currently, there are three main federal food-assistance programs in actions that people nationally can benefit from. “Women, Infants, & Children” (WIC) supplemental Nutrition program supports roughly 7.7 million people in the US alone. WIC grants low-income mothers with healthy food, advising, breastfeeding aid, and health-care support. Another program taking place currently is the “National School Lunch Program” which grants about 22 million students in grades K-12 with free or reduced lunch. Lastly and known by most is the “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program” (SNAP), formally known as food stamps. SNAP provides people and families, according to income, with money they can spend on groceries (US Department of Agriculture [USDA], 2018).

As a solution to the food insecurity faced throughout the US, there are three main things capable of being done. The first thing to do would be to ensure that people have adequate access to food within their community whether it be through a program like SNAP or be it through more grocery stores and better quality food. The second thing would be to educate people so that they know the availability they have to food and the options they have when it comes to caring for and possibly growing their own food on occasion. It is crucial that people are well-versed in where their food comes from and where their next meal is coming from. The third thing in this proposal would be to work on conserving the food already cycling through the system. From the moment food is grown whether it be plants of livestock, many things happen to it. The food is produced, processed into the food that we recognize it as, distributed to stores and restaurants, and lastly it is prepared to be served. So much of the food within the US either never makes it to a plate because it goes bad or, it is thrown out and wasted at restaurants, at home, and at grocery stores. A lot of the food that isn’t bought after a day’s work is thrown out when it could easily be redistributed or repurposed for those who truly need it.

According to a study titled “Household Food Security in 2015” done by the USDA, roughly 15.8 million households within the US alone experience a lack of food. About one in every eight homes suffers from food insecurity meaning they lack stable access to a proper food supply. In an effort to combat this, policy change needs to take place on a federal and/or state level. While the cost of food may seem miniscule, a substantial portion of annual incomes coming from low-incomes families (about 1/3 of their income) is funneled into the food that they eat which is typically cheap and unhealthy (US Department of Agriculture [USDA], 2018). Although there are many great and beneficial policies in place that work to provide assistance to these families, it isn’t enough. People should not have to worry about where their next meals are coming from, especially within such a successful nation fully capable of providing for its citizens.

As a solution, there could be higher benefit levels granted to SNAP and WIC participants and better public transportation to and from grocery stores. This transportation would take away any additional hurdles many people may be having to jump over – especially in rurally based, low-incomes areas. According to the USDA, 2.1 million people in the US live farther than a mile away from a grocery store (2018). This distance may be manageable short term but it becomes incredibly impractical and somewhat impossible for one to carry a family’s weeks’ worth of food home with them with no car. Farmers and local grocery store could also develop a small-scale traveling store that brings the food to these poorer areas providing convenience and relieving stress from the families.

Some may oppose the idea of giving more money to government programs like SNAP or WIC primarily due to its cost. Some may ask, “How can the government put more money into something like SNAP or WIC when it already supports so many other people?” Also, many people may oppose being taxed more in order to pay for others’ expenses, or in this case, food. Although these funds may seem unwarranted and excessive, it’s important to recognize the extreme benefits that would come from it. With more people working and less people spending their incomes on food, they can focus their finances on other, more important things that would still put money back into the economy.

Another solution that could work to combat this issue would be to better educate all people within the US on what they can do to make this problem smaller. People could take classes on how to grow their own food. Around the US there are ton of organizations that will teach people and provide them with the resources they need to successfully grow their own food. “Grow Appalachia” is an organization that within it’ first 6 years, produced over 1.8 million pounds of organic, ready to eat food. Other groups like churches, farmers’ markets, boy/girl scouts, etc. could be of large benefit in this area as well. In order for these kinds of organizations to thrive, people also need to be educated in why these foods are superior to cheap and convenient fast food chains.

It’s a known fact that you can provide people with plenty of resources and tools they need to succeed yet they might still choose their own way of living. This could possibly pertain to the idea of expending time and money into growing healthy food when many people might not accept it or be open to it despite their current situation. As a way to fight this, many local governments work to encourage healthy habits and attitudes by up charging or taxing the readily unhealthy options. Another issue some may find with these proposals may be cost.

The last thing that people need to be aware of is their ability to conserve resources. Tons of food is thrown out and wasted constantly. According to the USDA, 40% of the food processed each year is never eaten, resulting in about 130 billion pounds of food wasted, costing roughly $160 billion. When food has been deemed unfit to be purchased and it about to be wasted, there are many things that can be done. First is to consider the hungry. This food could be donated to food banks, soup kitchen, shelters, etc. Next is to consider animals shelters; any animal would gladly take some leftover food over no food at all. After consumption would come industrial uses like oil into fuel and scraps into energy. Lastly would be composting. Composting turns rotten and older food into soil nutrients. As an absolute last resort – the landfill should be used (See Fig. 1) (Environmental Protection Agency [EPA], 2017).

Fig. 1 (EPA, 2017) – Hierarchy developed by the EPA explaining the multiple ways food can be repurposed as opposed to wasted and in what order of significance. Though the idea and issue of food insecurity may seem small and negligible, it affects tons of people daily – even close friends. Many people may find it shocking that such an issue could arise within such a developed country like the US. It’s because of the US success that these issues should be dealt with appropriately, efficiently, and timely. In order to do this it’s crucial that people remember to 1. Rethink the policies currently in place, 2. Educate themselves and their families on what they can do and to 3. Conserve and much as possible!

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References:

Coleman-Jensen, A. (2018, September). Overview. Retrieved from https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-us.aspx

International Efforts on Wasted Food Recovery. (2018, March 12). Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/international-cooperation/international-efforts-wasted-food- recovery

The Nourishing Effect. (2018, April 10). Retrieved from https://www.bread.org/library/nourishing-effect

Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.secondharvestmetrolina.org/about-us?gclid=Cj0KCQiA6JjgBRDbARIsANfu58FAheBxDjtW2uoHm-4EUkkm_X5P4dT9sIGjdGwDPC-nsExCyQlIhLAaAnLwEALw_wcB

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Food Insecurity Within the US: What Now?. (2019, Feb 15). Retrieved November 30, 2022 , from
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