World Food Day
Published: October 16, 2021
In this blog, we’ll discuss food insecurity, nutrition, and access to healthy foods.
October 16 is World Food Day! World Food Day celebrates the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger. Their goal is to achieve food security for all and make sure that people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as “a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life”. Different factors affect food insecurity including: race/ethnicity, income, urban or rural living, employment, transportation, and impacts on supply chain (especially during natural disasters and pandemics such as the COVID-19 pandemic).
Food insecurity is an issue that impacts many countries, including the US. Some states, including Texas, have above average food insecurity prevalence. Approximately 2.4 million (9%) of Texas residents have both low income and low access to healthy food sources, as of 2015, and COVID-19 has lead to increased challenges. Rising levels of unemployment, increased poverty, and limited access to school nutrition programs because of school closures due to the pandemic have increased food insecurity.
Food insecurity has risen to affect roughly 45 million Americans (14%), including 15 million children (20%) in 2020, while there were 35 million Americans (10.9%), including nearly 11 million children, who were food insecure in 2019. This means there was an increase of approximately 10 million food insecure Americans due to COVID-19. These increases are a public health issue because food insecure households are at greater risk for other health issues. Food insecurity disproportionately affects households with children, low- income households, and black and Hispanic households. Food insecurity is associated with serious health conditions like anemia, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, mental health issues, and developmental delays among children.
- Over 1.8 million (33%) of Texas children do not eat any vegetables.
- Over 1.2 million (23%) of Texas children do not eat fruit
- 35% of 8th graders and 40% of 11th graders do not eat breakfast
- Over 90% of Texas children eat at least one sweet or salty snack (candy, frozen dessert, cakes, French fries, or chips)
In order to combat food insecurity there are certain tips and evidence-based interventions to improve access to healthy foods:
- Making healthy foods more accessible with price discounts or subsidies for healthier foods can increase healthy food consumption and increase sales of healthy foods. These types of programs can be implemented in schools and the workplace.
- Fruit and vegetable incentive programs can offer participants with low incomes funds to purchase healthy foods. Many programs coordinate with existing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP). There is significant evidence that these incentives “increase affordability, access, purchase, and consumption” of fruits and vegetables.
- The School Breakfast Program is a federal program that reimburses states to “operate nonprofit breakfast programs in schools and residential childcare institutions”. These programs decrease food insecurity for children and are associated with improved academic achievement.
- If access to fruits and vegetables is possible there are also ways to expose children to fruits and veggies that may encourage them to try them. Providing fruits and vegetables as snacks and having fruits and vegetables accessible can be helpful in encouraging these habits. Serving salads at meals can be helpful in exposing kids to vegetables as well. Vegetarian recipes for spaghetti, lasagna, chili, or other foods using vegetables instead of meat can be helpful in exposure. Adding a fruit or vegetable as part of every meal or snack can be another helpful tip. For example, you could put fruit on cereal, add a piece of fruit or small salad to your child’s lunch, use vegetables and dip for an after-school snack, or add a vegetable or two you want to try to the family’s dinner.
World Food Day is a great day to spread awareness about food insecurity in the world, and across Texas. There are various ways to fight the battle against food insecurity in your own community. Start today!