The USDA's labels describe ranges of food security:
High food security (old label=Food security): no reported indications of food-access problems or limitations.
Marginal food security (old label=Food security): one or two reported indications—typically of anxiety over food sufficiency or shortage of food in the house. Little or no indication of changes in diets or food intake.
Low food security (old label=Food insecurity without hunger): reports of reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet. Little or no indication of reduced food intake.
Very low food security (old label=Food insecurity with hunger): Reports of multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.
A food desert is a geographic area where affordable and nutritious food is alleged to be hard to obtain, particularly for those without access to an automobile.
What is Food Insecurity?
In 2016, an estimated 1 in 8 Americans were food insecure, equating to 42 million Americans including 13 million children.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.
It is important to know that hunger and food insecurity are closely related, but distinct, concepts. Hunger refers to a personal, physical sensation of discomfort, while food insecurity refers to a lack of available financial resources for food at the level of the household.
Policy evaluation, through both quantitative and qualitative research, reveals food insecurity to be a complex problem. It does not exist in isolation, as low-income families are affected by multiple, overlapping issues like affordable housing, social isolation, health problems, medical costs, and low wages. Many do not have what they need to meet basic needs and these challenges increase a family’s risk of food insecurity. Effective responses to food insecurity will need to address these overlapping challenges.
Taken together, issues such as affordable housing, social isolation, education level, unemployment or underemployment and food insecurity are important social determinants of health [ii] defined as the “conditions in the environments in which people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.” HungerandHealth.org explores the impact of food insecurity as a social determinant of health and its effect on individual and population health outcomes.
Poverty and food insecurity in the United States are closely related. Not all people living below the poverty line experience food insecurity, and people living above the poverty line can experience food insecurity. Wages and other critical household expenses (such as caring for an ill child) can also help predict food insecurity among people living in the United States.
Hunger and Health-Feeding America
The U.S. Department of Agriculture measures food security along a scale from “high food security” to “very low food security,” with three categories to indicate levels of food insecurity.
Moderate food security” describes households with some level of concern or challenge in accessing quality food without significant decreases in quality, variety, or quantity. u “Low food security” describes households where quality, variety, and desirability are negatively impacted, but quantity is not. u “Very low food security” indicates decreases in all areas (quality, variety, desirability, quantity) as well as disrupted eating patterns due to inability to access adequate food.
The survey assessed the food security level of the respondents using the questions provided in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Adult Food Security Survey Module.16 Based on their responses to these questions, respondents were given a score of zero through ten. Their food security status was then determined based on their score:
Score of zero – High food security u Score of 1-2 – Marginal food security .
Score of 3-5 – Low food security u Score of 6-10 – Very low food security
Students with a score of three or more were considered “food insecure.” Students with a score of six or more were considered to be “very food insecure” and likely to be suffering from hunger.
Five reasons students on college campuses are struggling to afford food
1. Rising tuition costs.
2. College meal plans are expensive.
3. Even when you have a meal plan, food isn’t always available.
4. The “traditional” college student is changing.
5. Colleges don’t know students are going hungry.
Why college students are food insecure | Feeding America
Recent research article: Food Insecurity Among College Students: Background and Policy Options June 9, 2021 R46817 (congress.gov)
Welcome to DoSomething.org, a global movement of millions of young people making positive change, online and off! The 11 facts you want are below, and the sources for the facts are at the very bottom of the page. After you learn something, Do Something! Find out how to take action here.
Interactive map of Food Deserts in the US. USDA ERS - Go to the Atlas
How Food Insecurities Increase Obesity Rates
A Move for Hunger (non-profit) website article that discusses the connection between food safety and obesity rates.
USDA - Defines Food Insecurity
Information on USDA definitions pertaining to food insecurity.
Tips, tools, and guides for reducing your foodprint; a non-profit site dedicated to food prodcution education.
Map of Food Deserts and Food Access
A USDA atlas of food access statistics by geographic region.
There are a number of videos available on this subject, both on the internet and through our available databases. This page features some useful examples. For more, we recommend accessing the Films on Demand database.
20% of kids are plagued by food insecurity - they lack reliable access to nourishing food. As a nutritionist Clancy’s mistake was assuming people had access to the quality food they needed. This resulted in their inability to provide healthy meals even after she taught them how.
A look at the problem of food insecurity in the US--a condition which affected 49 million Americans in 2013. Featuring insight and perspective from a range of distinguished experts, including from the food insecure themselves, "The American Food Disparity" examines food insecurity's causes and effects and throws into sharp relief the growing urgency with which it presents us.
Initiated by the work of then-graduate student Christopher Putvinski, who was working in Philadelphia to help reduce the high rates of food insecurity in that city, "The American Food Disparity" seeks to raise awareness about the issue and to move the discussion towards one of solution rather than mitigation.
Food pantries are appearing more frequently in a surprising type of location: colleges and universities. More than 700 educational institutions belong to a national nonprofit aiming to alleviate food insecurity among college students. From PBS station WTTW in Chicago, Brandis Friedman reports on how City Colleges and the Greater Chicago Food Depository are providing nutrition along with knowledge.
Hunger in Nebraska; where it happens, who is impacted, what is being done about it. Plus a Nebraska history moment.