September is Hunger Action Month

01 Sep 2020 5:00 AM | Amy Habeck (Administrator)

Neighbors in Need:  Food Insecurity in Westchester and Rockland

Angela Iovine, WRDA Student Liaison

PACE Graduate Student, MS 2021

September 1, 2020

Many Americans face food-access problems that limit their ability to keep themselves active and  healthy.1  This is broadly referred to as food insecurity.  Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, food insecurity was at its lowest since the Great Recession.2  Data from 2018 estimated that 7.8% of the population of Westchester county (75,730 people) and 9% of the population of Rockland county (28,980 people) were food insecure.  The majority of these households met SNAP eligibility requirements; however, up to a third did not qualify.3  Projections for 2020 increase these numbers to 12.5% and 13.7% for Westchester and Rockland respectively.4  According to the Feeding Westchester website, 1 in 5 Westchester residents will be food insecure this year, including about 60,000  are children.5

            Food insecurity denotes an inability to dedicate the necessary resources to purchase food.  People who are food insecure may have food to eat, but the food may not nutritionally adequate.  Households may prioritize value over quality, desirability, or variety.  This is known as having “low food security”, one of the two categories the USDA uses to quantify food insecurity.  The other category is “very low food security”.  These are people who, in addition to the above sacrifices, don’t always have enough food to eat, and have gone hungry due to a lack of resources.6  Some groups of people, including children, the elderly, Latinos, and African Americans, have higher rates of food insecurity than the general population.7 

The lack of food security in our community is concerning.  This is one of several social determinants of health, as is poverty.8  Poverty and food insecurity have a direct relationship, as do poverty and chronic disease.  The poorest Americans tend to have the least resources to acquire nutritious food and the worst health outcomes.9  The coronavirus pandemic has potentially exacerbated these issues, disproportionally affecting people with chronic diseases, seniors, Latinos and African Americans.  These vulnerable populations are at a higher risk for serious infection and for economic hardship related to layoffs and business closures. 10  These are many of the same groups that are more likely to be food insecure.  Since the pandemic began, the need for food assistance has grown, and researchers anticipate that demand will continue to grow.11

The many challenges that face those who are food insecure are complex and not easily solved.  As nutrition professionals we can advocate for change by supporting community-based programming, policy change, and research.  The vision of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is: “A world where all people thrive through the transformative power of food and nutrition.”12  This is a message we can all get behind.  There are many local advocacy organizations, food banks, and charities in our area addressing this cause.  If there’s one you find particularly valuable, please share a couple sentences about it on our Facebook page to spread awareness.

References

1.         U.S. Department of Agriculture. Food Security in the U.S. U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, Web site. https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-us/. Updated September 4, 2019. Accessed June 19, 2020.

2.         Coleman-Jensen A, Rabbitt MP, Gregory CA, Singh A. Household Food Security in the United States in 2018. U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service. https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/publications/94849/err-270.pdf?v=2493.9.  Published September 2019. Accessed June 19, 2020.

3.         Feeding America. Food Insecurity in New York. Feeding America Web site. http://map.feedingamerica.org/county/2018/overall/new-york. Accessed June 19, 2020.

4.         Feeding America. The Impact of Coronavirus on Food Insecurity. Feeding America Web site. https://www.feedingamericaaction.org/the-impact-of-coronavirus-on-food-insecurity/. Published June 3, 2020. Accessed June 19, 2020.

5.         Feeding Westchester. Hunger in Westchester. https://feedingwestchester.org/hunger-in-westchester/. Accessed June 19, 2020.

6.         U.S. Department of Agriculture. Definitions of Food Security. United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, Web site. https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-us/definitions-of-food-security/. Updated September 04, 2019. Accessed June 19, 2020.

7.         Feeding America. What is Food Insecurity? Feeding America Web site. https://hungerandhealth.feedingamerica.org/understand-food-insecurity/#_ftn3. Accessed June 19, 2020.

8.         American Academy of Family Physicians. Advancing Health Equity by Addressing the Social Determinants of Health in Family Medicine (Position Paper). AAFP.org Web site. https://www.aafp.org/about/policies/all/socialdeterminantofhealth-positionpaper.html. Published April 2019. Accessed June 19, 2020.

9.         Shaw K, Theis K, Self-Brown S, Roblin D, Barker L. Chronic Disease Disparities by County Economic Status and Metropolitan Classification, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2013. Prev Chronic Dis. September 1, 2016;13. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.5888/pcd13.160088. Accessed June 19, 2020.

10.       Hake M, Dewey A, Engelhard E, et al. The Impact of Coronavirus on Local Food Insecurity. America F. https://www.feedingamerica.org/sites/default/files/2020-05/Brief_Local%20Impact_5.19.2020.pdf.  Published May 19, 2020. Accessed June 19, 2020.

11.       Feeding America. The Impact of the Coronavirus on Food Insecurity. Feeding America. https://www.feedingamerica.org/sites/default/files/2020-04/Brief_Impact%20of%20Covid%20on%20Food%20Insecurity%204.22%20%28002%29.pdf.  Published March 30, 2020. Updated April 22, 2020. Accessed June 19, 2020.

12.       Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Academy Mission, Vision and Principles. eatrightPRO Web site. https://www.eatrightpro.org/about-us/academy-vision-and-mission/mission-and-vision-statements. Accessed June 19, 2020.



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