Food Insecurity Food insecurity is defined as the disruption of food intake or eating patterns because of a lack of money and other resources. 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.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) divides food insecurity into the following 2 categories:
Low food security: “Reports of reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet. Little or no indication of reduced food intake.”
Very low food security: “Reports of multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.”
Food insecurity may be long term or temporary. It may be influenced by a number of factors including income, employment, race/ethnicity, and disability. The risk for food insecurity increases when money to buy food is limited or not available. In 2016, 31.6% of low-income households were food insecure, compared to the national average of 12.3%. children with unemployed parents have higher rates of food insecurity than children with employed parents. Racial and ethnic disparities exist related to food insecurity. In 2016, black non- Hispanic households were nearly 2 times more likely to be food insecure than the national average (22.5% versus 12.3%, respectively). Among Hispanic households, the prevalence of food insecurity was 18.5% compared to the national average (12.3%). Neighborhood conditions may affect physical access to food. For example, people living in some urban areas, rural areas, and low-income neighborhoods may have limited access to full-service supermarkets or grocery stores. Predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhoods have fewer full-service supermarkets than predominantly white and non-Hispanic neighborhoods. Communities that lack affordable and nutritious food are commonly known as “food deserts.” Convenience stores and small independent stores are more common in food deserts than full-service supermarkets or grocery stores. These stores may have higher food prices, lower quality foods, and less variety of foods than supermarkets or grocery stores. Access to healthy foods is also affected by a lack of transportation and long distances between residences and supermarkets or grocery stores.