What is Food Insecurity?
When addressing food justice and equity, it is important to begin by recognizing food insecurity and its impact. Food insecurity is defined as the disruption of food intake or eating patterns because of lack of money and other resources. Food insecurity can be influenced by many different factors, including income, environment, race/ethnicity, employment, and disability. In 2014, 17.4 million U.S. households were food insecure at some time during the year. Food insecurity does not necessarily cause hunger, but hunger is a possible outcome of food insecurity.1 Some of us are surrounded by different kinds of grocery stores and restaurants and have enough of an income to access that food. Understanding that it is a privilege to not worry about food and opt for a more nutritious diet is crucial when determining how to help others.
What is Food Justice and Food Equity and Why Are They Important?
Food justice is a holistic and structural view of the food system that sees healthy food as a human right and addresses structural barriers to that right. Food equity expands on justice, being a concept that all people should have the ability and opportunity to grow and to consume healthful, affordable, and culturally significant foods. As Americans, we are surrounded by low cost and fast food, and for low-income families, that fast food may be their dominant food source. Food insecurity and high rates of diet-related disease correlate with poverty, which disproportionately impacts people of color. Nationally, the rate of food insecurity for African American households is more than double that of white households, while 1 in 5 Latinos are food insecure — compared with 1 in 10 whites and 1 in 8 Americans overall.2 Limited access to nutritious foods negatively impacts health. Heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and stroke are among the most common causes of illness, disability, and death in the US, and are all food-related illnesses. The lack of access to healthy food can be more common for minority groups and must be addressed.
How Can You Help?
There are many organizations striving to diminish food insecurity and diminish food injustice and inequity. It may be difficult knowing where to start as an individual, but there are so many things you can do to help!
- Work with Feeding America. Feeding America is an organization made up of 200 food banks across the country that are dedicated to ending hunger nationwide.
- Volunteer at a food bank. Outside of Feeding America, there are plenty of community opportunities to help hands-on!
- Stock a community fridge! Look up “community fridges near me”.
- Start a community garden.
- Contact your representatives. Food insecurity is one of the larger, overarching injustices that affect millions of Americans. Write to or call your local representatives and push for policies that will increase access to food, including funding more food banks and initiatives, developing SNAP benefits, expanding anti-hunger programs such as the National School Lunch Program and WIC.
- Support food justice organizations led by people of color.
- Encourage your local farmers, supermarkets, and cafeterias to join the Domestic Fair Trade Association and to seek Food Justice Certification through the Agricultural Justice Project. Both groups uphold high standards for fair treatment of workers and care of the environment.
- Learn more about the history of race and the food system.
- Join Hoosier Health and Wellness Alliance in a discussion on the challenges and successes communities across Indiana have faced when addressing food access. Explore how nutrition is impacted by health inequities and structural racism, while learning the intricacies of food systems and how you can take next steps toward food resilience in your own community. Register now for the 2022 Hoosier Health and Wellness Alliance Summit: Building and Sustaining an Equitable Food System!