What is Food Insecurity?

posted on Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Not everyone is familiar with the term "food insecurity" yet too many Americans are familiar with the results. According to the USDA, food insecurity is the limited or uncertain availability of or ability to acquire nutritionally adequate and safe food in socially acceptable ways. Food insecurity includes physical hunger and also compensating behaviors used to avoid hunger.

How people compensate can drastically affect their health. Finding the next meal may become the priority over taking care of one’s health through refilling medications, making and keeping health care appointments, and dealing with insurance issues. Feeding America Network reports 66 percent of households having to choose between food and medical care. Some of the coping strategies include watering down food or drink (40%) and purchasing inexpensive, unhealthy food (79%). The compensatory behaviors impact the prevention of chronic disease.

Food insecurity can lead to dietary coping strategies which can make sense in the short term, but can have a negative impact on health in the long term. Households may choose foods higher in sugar and fat to satisfy their hunger. Foods may be highly processed, so higher in salt. When food is available, persons may overeat, leading to weight gain. When food is scarce, persons may skip meals, leading to weight loss. These habits can contribute to the development of diabetes, hypertension and obesity. Treating these conditions with medicine, appointments and testing leads to further expenses. More medically related expenses leaves even less money to buy food, and the vicious cycle continues.

During March's National Nutrition Month, we recognize the importance of good nutrition in promoting health at all ages. A variety of wholesome foods is essential. Spencer Hospital's nutrition professionals encourage people to join them donating healthy foods to the Upper Des Moines Opportunity Food Pantry. Drop off at UDMO or during March, in the hospital's cafeteria.

Thank you for helping our community be “Healthier Together!”

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