Food Insecurity Essay

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Defining the burden of food insecurity in the US
Food insecurity is defined as “the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.”1 This is measured on a continuum that divides food security status into four categories: high food security, marginal food security, low food security and very low food security (see appendix for definitions).2 In 2016, approximately 12% of households in the United States, representing 41.2 million individuals, experienced some level of food insecurity. Approximately 7% of households experienced low food security and almost 5% experienced very low food security. In addition to difficulty obtaining food, those who are food insecure may also lack the resources necessary to meet their basic material needs. This may ultimately impact their ability to manage their health needs and drive increased healthcare usage.3

Food security as a determinant of health
Studies have shown food insecurity to be associated with inadequate nutrient intake and several poor physical and mental health outcomes across the lifespan.4,5,6 There are a number of studies that have examined the relationship between health status and access to food among adults. Results from two cross-sectional studies using a nationally representative household survey showed an association between food insecurity and higher rates of chronic disease, such as

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