Food Insecurity and What We Can Do About It

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With 42 million Americans being food insecure in 2016, it feels necessary to explain what food insecurity means and what we can do about it. There are many organizations that are working to help alleviate food insecurity and Replate is one of them! There is plenty of food to feed everyone, but many of our neighbors do not have a dependable way to access it.

Let’s start with definitions. Food insecurity is a lack of reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. Although, food insecurity is sometimes used interchangeably with hunger, they are different terms. Hunger is defined as a feeling of discomfort or weakness caused by lack of food, coupled with the desire to eat. Food insecurity is measured at a household level, while hunger is measured on an individual level.

The level of food insecurity ranges by a household’s access to consistent food. The range is from high food security, marginal food security, low food security, to very low food security. Those at the high food security level have no problem with accessibility to sufficient food. Conversely, those with very low food security report that there are multiple occasions of disrupted eating patterns and food intake is reduced, usually to a lack of money or other resources for food.

 Check out the full  USDA Economic Research Service  report.

Check out the full USDA Economic Research Service report.

Who is affected by food insecurity?

Food insecurity affects people of all ages and backgrounds. A 2016 reportshows that of the 42 million people experiencing food insecurity, 28 million are adults and 13 million are children. Those who are most affected by food insecurity are among children, seniors, African americans, latinos and rural communities. The effects that stem from food insecurity on individuals can be malnutrition and nutritional deficiencies from not eating enough or eating empty calories. This is particularly detrimental for young children during their functional development or for seniors with varying health issues. Lack of food security adds stress to individuals and families which can result in hormonal and metabolic changes, depression, and anxiety. These stressors can add direct costs to public health care and food assistance programs, but also adds an indirect cost to society. Workers may miss days at their job, have lowered productivity, or not be prepared for a competitive workforce.

What can we do about this?

Despite the systemic issues that has resulted into many of our neighbors being food insecure, there are some actions we can take to help continue to alleviate the problem.

Education. Educating yourself on how we got to a place of high food insecurity is incredibly helpful to further understand and dream up solutions. Find out what local and federal policies are in place supporting or hindering progress to ensure everyone has sufficient and consistent access to quality food.

VolunteerYou can personally donate your time to volunteer in soup kitchens, food pantries, or other initiatives in your local area that are working to support individuals or families experiencing food insecurity. By offering direct support, you are able to make human connections with people. This may only be only one hour of your time but that one hour ripples largely in the community you serve. Just by showing care, you have the ability to change someone’s day, put a smile on their face, or nourish the body or spirit of another. Check out Hunger Volunteer or Farming Hope to find a place to volunteer in your area.

TechnologyWe can utilize technology advances to support efforts that redirect perfectly delicious food from businesses into the mouths of hungry people instead of into the compost or landfill. Replate does this by offering an easy to use online platform that allows business to manage the donation of their surplus food. Their donation is matched with a nearby non-profit to feed and nurture their vulnerable community. This work can be replicated around the world and used in various industries that have surplus food like food suppliers and retailers, event and catering companies, and hotels or hospitals.

What organizations exist to support those with food insecurity?

Replate works with many amazing non-profit organizations that are spending their time supporting individuals and families experiencing food insecurity. One organization is Emeryville Citizens Assistance Program in Emeryville, CA. ECAP is a food pantry that serves 500 people a day and relies on daily donated food from Replate as well as other food donations from various markets around the Bay Area.

 Nelly, founder of ECAP, and the community she serves.

Nelly, founder of ECAP, and the community she serves.

LifeMoves in the Bay Area works tirelessly to break the cycle of homelessness. They serve families or individuals with comprehensive services to find a fast return to stable housing and self-sufficiency. With daily and reliable donations from Replate, LifeMoves was able to reallocate their food budget toward the mental health program within their organization.

 Replate donations arriving at LifeMoves.

Replate donations arriving at LifeMoves.

Replate also works with CHiPS in Brooklyn, New York. CHiPS serves prepared or donated food from their kitchen to hungry folks. As many as 350 meals are served daily and more than 2 million meals have been served since 1971. They also provide shelter for young moms who are experiencing homelessness. CHiPS helps mothers become self-sufficient with training in maternal/child health, career development and ongoing life skills.

 Community members eating a meal together at CHiPS.

Community members eating a meal together at CHiPS.

We all know someone who is or has been food insecure, whether we know they are or not. The steps we can take to support friends or neighbors is at our fingertips. If you are a company wanting to support your local community by donating surplus food, let Replate the take care of the logistics and help you get started on making a difference. We’re all in this together and with each others help, everyone eats.

Jen Fedrizzi