Today we continue to celebrate National Nutrition Month by talking about food insecurity. According to the USDA's latest Household Food Insecurity in the United States report "more than 35 million people in the United States struggled with hunger in 2019." And unfortunately, the situation is getting worse. According to the organization Feeding America, more than 50 million people may experience food insecurity due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
The irony of food insecurity is that we have an overabundance of food in the United States, but that people are malnourished due to the type of food that is produced - high calorie, processed food. According to Marion Nestle in her book, Food Politics, "the abundance of food in the United States—enough calories to meet the needs of every man, woman, and child twice over—has a downside. Our overefficient food industry must do everything possible to persuade people to eat more—more food, more often, and in larger portions—no matter what it does to waistlines or well-being."
Mark Hyman addresses this issue in his book Food Fix, which sheds light on the fact that the food industry in the United States distorts nutritional science, corrupts nutrition research, and lobbies the government, impacting our national policies and hurting minorities, the poor, and the food insecure. A recent report published by the organization Feed the Truth showed that "in the last 10 years, the largest 20 food industry groups spent over 300 million dollars on federal lobbying."
You've probably heard the term "food deserts," which are areas where people have limited access to supermarkets, super centers, grocery stores, or other sources of healthy and affordable food, putting them at a higher risk of obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases. According to the USDA Economic Research Service, about 23.5 million people live in food deserts. Nearly half of them are also low-income. There's no doubt that poverty and poor nutrition are intertwined.
What can you do?
Find your local food bank on Feeding America's website and donate food or money. Vote with your fork by buying healthy foods to let the big food companies know that we want healthy options, and less processed food. Let your legislators know that you want more oversight of the food industry, and actions such as banning ads for junk food targeted at kids, requiring truthful food labels, paying employees living wages, subsidizing healthy foods in programs for poor people, and eliminating corporate tax deductions for marketing.
Together, we can make a difference.