Hunger is not just about lack of food — it’s also about lack of nutritious food. Families that experience, or are at risk of, hunger are also likely to be malnourished due to limited access to nutritious foods such as lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. A lack of adequate transportation and grocery stores within walking distance, combined with an abundance of fast food restaurants and convenience foods, creates “food deserts” in low-income neighborhoods, with measurable negative impact on health and wellness. Many people lack adequate refrigeration space or access to stoves and ovens. Others rely on processed food, and may have limited cooking skills to put together a balanced meal from scratch using fresh ingredients.
In the United States, few people die from pure starvation. Rather, hunger and chronic food insecurity take their toll on lower income communities through higher rates of diet-related diseases such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses. Many individuals experiencing food insecurity consume diets comprised of low nutrient-density foods, which tend to be higher in sugar and sodium and lower in protein, fiber, and vitamins. Combined with an inadequate level of physical activity, these habits contribute to high obesity and diabetes rates.
Hunger and lack of nutritious food have long-term consequences for children, including increased rates of impaired cognitive and brain development, lowered immune response, short stature, and obesity. Similarly, studies show that malnourished elders experience more frequent and prolonged hospital stays, with a higher rate of complications. The Food Bank’s Registered Dietitian and a Nutrition Educator work with our member agencies to help address these vital issues. We offer participating agencies a variety of approaches aimed at empowering individuals to develop healthier eating and shopping habits on a limited budget.