According to the latest projections released by Feeding America, up to 42 million people in America, including 13 million children, may experience food insecurity in 2021—which means they have limited or inconsistent access to food that is both nutritious and safe. As we prepare to gather for Independence Day, enjoy barbecues and fireworks with family and friends, and reflect on the freedoms and rights we have in this great country of ours, we must also remember that many of our neighbors will go to bed hungry that night.
In 1966, the Right to Food was enshrined in international law in the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. Generally understood as the right to feed oneself in dignity, it is more than just freedom from hunger; it is the idea that everyone, everywhere should have access to an adequate, nutritious diet: one that is accessible without going to great lengths to obtain it, one that is affordable, meaning that families do not have to sacrifice other basic needs to buy it, and one that is both nutritious and in line with religious and cultural customs.
Yet, here we are some 55 years later still working to help over 30,000 people in our community achieve this basic element of living. Imagine that you had just enough money to buy food for the week, with nothing left over to pay your utility bills or rent. Many hungry families face these tough choices every day. The median annual income for households served by the Feeding America network is $9,175. In Feeding America’s 2014 Hunger in America study, the people we serve told us about the choices they face due to limited resources:
69% had to choose between food and utilities
67% had to choose between food and transportation
66% had to choose between food and medical care
57% had to choose between food and housing
31% had to choose between food and transportation
They also told us about the many ways they stretch their food budget and 79% of them report that they purchase inexpensive, unhealthy food. People who are food insecure are disproportionally affected by diet-sensitive chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure, and according to research, food insecurity is also linked to many adverse effects on overall health. For children, food insecurity is particularly devastating. Not having enough healthy food can have serious implications for a child’s physical and mental health, academic achievement, and future economic prosperity. Research shows an association between food insecurity and delayed development in young children; risk of chronic illnesses like asthma and anemia; and behavioral problems like hyperactivity, anxiety, and aggression in school-age children.
These obstacles create true barriers to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” the unalienable rights of every American. But we are working to build a foundation of good health for families, children, and seniors. When our communities — especially children — have access to healthy, well-balanced diets, everyone benefits.