Even more Americans don’t have regular access to healthy food than previously believed. Based on studies from 2008, new research from the Journal of the American Dietetic Association shows that 15 percent of Americans were food insecure at least once that year. Worse yet, that number is going up.
That rising number of hungry people includes 17.3 million with “very low food security,” whose eating habits were seriously disrupted and food intake markedly reduced. Over a million of those very hungry Americans are children. The ADA study also found that parents in food insecure homes often opt to go without food themselves so their kids will have something to eat.
The American Dietetic Association’s position paper also warns of the dangers of food deprivation, everything from disease and malnutrition to trouble at school and psychological difficulties. Importantly, the ADA called for increased funding of programs to combat hunger and improve nutrition. According to the ADA (and most thinking people), access to food is “a basic human need and fundamental right.”
So how do we make that right a reality for the nearly 50 million Americans who don’t have reliable, healthy food? The ADA offers a host of strategies that are by now to familiar to regular readers of this blog, including innovations to support individual and household economic self-sufficiency. (Like, you know, jobs that pay livable wages).
ADA’s other recommendations include: “[A]dequate funding for and increased use of food and nutrition assistance programs, as well as innovative programs to promote and support economic self-sufficiency … Registered dietitians can encourage clients to access existing programs providing food and nutrition assistance, social services and job training as an immediate intervention.”
Will officials take these recommendations seriously? At least one might already be doing just that. This month Kansas governor Mark Parkinson declared September “Hunger Awareness Month.” He’s also setting up a task force to ensure everyone has access to enough healthy food — at least in Kansas. Only 49 states to go.