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Reprint of: Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Food Insecurity in the United States

      Abstract

      It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that systematic and sustained action is needed to achieve food and nutrition security in the United States. To achieve food security, effective interventions are needed, along with adequate funding for, and increased utilization of, food and nutrition assistance programs; inclusion of nutrition education in such programs; strategies to support individual and household economic stability; and research to measure impact on food insecurity- and health-related outcomes. Millions of individuals living in the United States experience food insecurity. Negative nutritional and non-nutritional outcomes are associated with food insecurity across the lifespan, including substandard academic achievement, inadequate intake of key nutrients, increased risk for chronic disease, and poor psychological and cognitive functioning. Registered dietitian nutritionists and nutrition and dietetics technicians, registered, play key roles in addressing food insecurity and are uniquely positioned to make valuable contributions through competent and collaborative practice, provision of comprehensive food and nutrition education and training, innovative research related to all aspects of food insecurity, and advocacy efforts at the local, state, regional, and national levels.
      It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that systematic and sustained action is needed to achieve food and nutrition security in the United States. To achieve food security, effective interventions are needed, along with adequate funding for, and increased utilization of, food and nutrition assistance programs; inclusion of nutrition education in such programs; strategies to support individual and household economic stability; and research to measure impact on food insecurity- and health-related outcomes.
      Access to enough food for an active, healthy life is a basic human need and fundamental right. Yet food insecurity, that is, the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways,
      • Anderson S.A.
      Core indicators of nutritional state for difficult-to-sample populations.

      US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Food security in the US: Overview. https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-us/. Updated June 28, 2017. Accessed August 8, 2017.

      continues to affect millions of households across the United States.

      Coleman-Jensen A, Rabbitt MP, Gregory CA, Singh A. Household food insecurity in the United States in 2016 [ERR-237]. Economic Research Service website. https://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/pub-details?pubid=84972. Published September 2017. Accessed September 11, 2017.

      In this position paper, food insecurity and its related outcomes, spanning both individual and public health perspectives, highlight the necessity to promote, implement, and evaluate comprehensive approaches to achieve food security.

      US Department of Health and Human Services. Coverage to care. https://www.hhs.gov/healthcare/coverage-to-care/index.html. Reviewed January 31, 2017. Accessed September 6, 2017.

      Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC Community Health Improvement Navigator. https://www.cdc.gov/chinav/. Updated August 19, 2015. Accessed August 8, 2017.

      US Department of the Treasury
      Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, Final Regulations.
      The negative outcomes associated with food insecurity across the lifespan warrant attention. Multifaceted solutions across multiple sectors are being implemented in an effort to address this preventable public health issue. Food insecurity is being integrated into broader public health discussions and research efforts. For example, Healthy People 2020 includes two nutrition and weight status−related objectives targeting food insecurity: eliminate very-low food security among children (nutrition and weight status 12) and reduce household food insecurity and, in doing so, reduce hunger (nutrition and weight status 13).
      A number of objectives within Healthy People 2020 also emphasize the importance of improving healthy food access.

      US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Healthy People 2020. https://www.healthypeople.gov/. Updated August 7, 2017. Accessed August 8, 2017.

      For the first time, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

      US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/. Published December 2015. Accessed August 7, 2017.

      acknowledged the connection between food insecurity and health outcomes. In its report,

      Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015-scientific-report/. Published February 2015. Accessed August 8, 2017.

      the Advisory Committee encouraged more-robust federal nutrition policies and equity in access to sustainable and healthy environments. This statement emphasizes a deeper understanding of the intimate connection between poor health and household food insecurity. It also reinforces the criticality of addressing food insecurity through holistic approaches to promote optimal health and well-being. Furthermore, in 2013, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ House of Delegates created a Food and Nutrition Security Task Force to help outline and prioritize resources and action steps specific to the profession. The final Task Force action plan emphasized the importance of addressing food insecurity across several specialties within the dietetics profession from public health to clinical practice.

      Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Report to the House of Delegates (HOD): Food and Nutrition Security Task Force 2014. http://www.eatrightpro.org/∼/media/eatrightpro%20files/leadership/hod/mega%20issues/food-and-nutrition-security-report-action-plan.ashx. Approved May 2, 2014. Accessed August 8, 2017.

      Although the safety, security, and sustainability of the global food and water supply are of utmost importance, other position papers of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics focus on these topics.
      Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
      Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Food and water safety.
      Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
      Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Nutrition security in developing nations: Sustainable food, water, and health.
      In addition, some Position and Practice Papers include aspects of food insecurity within the scope of the paper.

      Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Position papers. http://www.eatrightpro.org/resources/practice/position-and-practice-papers/position-papers. Accessed August 8, 2017.

      This Position Paper concentrates on US (domestic) food insecurity as defined by the US Department of Agriculture.

      US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Definitions of food security. https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-us/definitions-of-food-security/. Updated October 4, 2016. Accessed August 8, 2017.

      Figure 1 summarizes key food-security−related terms.
      Figure 1Food-security−related definitions and classifications.
      Definitions
      Food security
      • Anderson S.A.
      Core indicators of nutritional state for difficult-to-sample populations.
      ,

      US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Definitions of food security. https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-us/definitions-of-food-security/. Updated October 4, 2016. Accessed August 8, 2017.

      Food security for a household means access by all members at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. Food security includes at a minimum:
      • The ready availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods.
      • Assured ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways (that is, without resorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging, stealing, or other coping strategies).
      Food insecurity
      • Anderson S.A.
      Core indicators of nutritional state for difficult-to-sample populations.
      Food insecurity is the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.
      US Department of Agriculture Food Security Classifications

      US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Definitions of food security. https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-us/definitions-of-food-security/. Updated October 4, 2016. Accessed August 8, 2017.

      Food security
      High food security: No reported indications of food-access problems or limitations.
      Marginal 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.
      Food insecurity
      Low food security: Reports of reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet. Little or no indication of reduced food intake.
      Very-low food security: Reports of multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.

      Food Insecurity: Prevalence and Characteristics

      As illustrated in Figure 2,

      Coleman-Jensen A, Rabbitt MP, Gregory CA, Singh A. Household food insecurity in the United States in 2016 [ERR-237]. Economic Research Service website. https://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/pub-details?pubid=84972. Published September 2017. Accessed September 11, 2017.

      household food-insecurity rates spiked during the 2008-2011 recession to 14.9% of US households. Since 2011, food-insecurity rates have trended downward, with a cumulative statistically significant decline from 2011 to 2014 and a statistically significant decline from 2014 to 2015. In 2016, 12.3% of all US households (15.6 million households) experienced food insecurity sometime during the year. Of these households, 7.4% (9.4 million households) experienced low food security and 4.9% (6.1 million households) experienced very-low food security. Resources to access food-security estimates and trends in the United States at the national, state, and county levels, as well as related information, are summarized in Figure 3.
      Figure thumbnail gr1
      Figure 2Food-insecurity prevalence trends in the United States.

      Coleman-Jensen A, Rabbitt MP, Gregory CA, Singh A. Household food insecurity in the United States in 2016 [ERR-237]. Economic Research Service website. https://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/pub-details?pubid=84972. Published September 2017. Accessed September 11, 2017.

      USDA=US Department of Agriculture.
      Figure 3Resources to access food-security estimates and trends in the United States at the national, state, and county levels, as well as selected food-security−related resources, programs, and organizations.
      ProgramWebsite
      Resources for food security estimates and trends
       Food Security in the United Stateswww.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-us.aspx
       USDA
      USDA=US Department of Agriculture.
      Food Atlas
      www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-environment-atlas.aspx
       Feeding America—Map the Meal Gaphttp://map.feedingamerica.org
      Federal nutrition assistance programs
       Child Nutrition Programs

      Child and Adult Care Food Program

      Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program

      National School Lunch Program

      School Breakfast Program

      Special Milk Program

      Summer Foodservice Program
      www.fns.usda.gov/school-meals/child-nutrition-programs
       Food Distribution Programs

      Child Nutrition USDA Foods Program

      Commodity Supplemental Food Program

      Department of Defense Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program

      Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations

      The Emergency Food Assistance Program

      USDA Foods Processing
      www.fns.usda.gov/fdd/food-distribution-programs
       Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)www.fns.usda.gov/snap/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snap
       SNAP Nutrition Educationwww.fns.usda.gov/snap/nutrition-education
       The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)www.fns.usda.gov/wic/women-infants-and-children-wic
      WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Programwww.fns.usda.gov/fmnp/wic-farmers-market-nutrition-program-fmnp
      Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Programwww.fns.usda.gov/sfmnp/senior-farmers-market-nutrition-program-sfmnp
      Other federally funded programs and helpful sites
       Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Programhttp://nifa.usda.gov/program/expanded-food-and-nutrition-education-program-efnep
       Farm-to-Schoolwww.fns.usda.gov/farmtoschool/farm-school
      Community-based programs and other organizations/resources
       Congressional Hunger Centerwww.hungercenter.org
       Feeding Americawww.feedingamerica.org, www.HungerandHealth.feedingamerica.org
       Food Recovery (A Citizen’s Guide to Food Recovery)www.usda.gov/news/pubs/gleaning/content.htm
       Food Research and Action Centerwww.frac.org
       Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hungerwww.mazon.org
       Meals on Wheels Association of Americawww.mowaa.org/Page.aspx?pid=183
       Share Our Strengthwww.strength.org
       WHY (World Hunger Year)www.whyhunger.org
      a USDA=US Department of Agriculture.
      Consistent with previous US estimates, the 2016 data indicate that households struggling with poverty experience food insecurity at greater rates than other households.

      Coleman-Jensen A, Rabbitt MP, Gregory CA, Singh A. Household food insecurity in the United States in 2016 [ERR-237]. Economic Research Service website. https://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/pub-details?pubid=84972. Published September 2017. Accessed September 11, 2017.

      In fact, those with incomes below the income-to-poverty ratio (<1.00) were three times more likely to be food insecure (<1.00, 38.3% of households; <1.30, 35.7% of households; and <1.85, 31.6% of households), than the national average (12.3%). Income alone, however, is not the sole factor that contributes to household food insecurity. Characteristics of those who experience food insecurity at rates greater than the national average include households with children (16.5%); households with children and headed by a single female (31.6%) or single male (21.7%); households headed by a black non-Hispanic (22.5%) or Hispanic individual (18.5%); and households located in metropolitan (principal cities) areas (14.2%) or nonmetropolitan (rural) areas (15.0%).

      Coleman-Jensen A, Rabbitt MP, Gregory CA, Singh A. Household food insecurity in the United States in 2016 [ERR-237]. Economic Research Service website. https://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/pub-details?pubid=84972. Published September 2017. Accessed September 11, 2017.

      Although food insecurity remains a concern for many older adults (65 years and older), their rates of household food insecurity (7.8% of households with an older adult; 8.9% of households with an older adult living alone) are lower than the national average.

      Coleman-Jensen A, Rabbitt MP, Gregory CA, Singh A. Household food insecurity in the United States in 2016 [ERR-237]. Economic Research Service website. https://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/pub-details?pubid=84972. Published September 2017. Accessed September 11, 2017.

      For seniors living with food insecurity, it is vital to recognize their unique health and social needs and implement targeted programs tailored to this vulnerable population.
      Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
      Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Food and nutrition for older adults: Promoting health and wellness.
      American Dietetic Association
      Position of the American Dietetics Association: Food and nutrition for older adults: Food and nutrition programs for community-residing older adults.
      Additional insight into food insecurity in the United States is gained from scientific research and studies conducted by organizations that examine segments of the population at risk for, or experiencing, food insecurity. The Feeding America network of food banks and hunger-relief programs, which serves more than 46 million people annually, conducted the 2014 Hunger in America study.

      Weinfield NS, Mills G, Borger C, et al. Hunger in America 2014: National report. Feeding America website. http://help.feedingamerica.org/HungerInAmerica/hunger-in-america-2014-full-report.pdf. Published August 2014. Accessed August 7, 2017.

      Of the 60,000 network client households surveyed, 85% self-identified as food insecure. Of those served by the Feeding America network, 43% self-identified as white, 26% as African American, and 20% as Latino. Overall, this represents 1 in 7 people in the United States, including 1 in 4 African Americans, 1 in 6 Latinos, and 1 in 10 white non-Hispanics in the United States.

      Weinfield NS, Mills G, Borger C, et al. Hunger in America 2014: National report. Feeding America website. http://help.feedingamerica.org/HungerInAmerica/hunger-in-america-2014-full-report.pdf. Published August 2014. Accessed August 7, 2017.

      The US Conference of Mayors Report on Hunger and Homelessness

      The United States Conference of Mayors. The United States Conference of Mayors’ Report on Hunger and Homelessness: A status report on hunger and homelessness in America’s cities. https://endhomelessness.atavist.com/mayorsreport2016. Published December 2016. Accessed August 8, 2017.

      encompassed 32 American cities in 24 states and documented the characteristics of those requesting food assistance to be families (63%), employed (51%), elderly (18%), and the homeless (8%).

      The United States Conference of Mayors. The United States Conference of Mayors’ Report on Hunger and Homelessness: A status report on hunger and homelessness in America’s cities. https://endhomelessness.atavist.com/mayorsreport2016. Published December 2016. Accessed August 8, 2017.

      Almost 14% of the demand for emergency food assistance was unmet across the survey cities.

      The United States Conference of Mayors. The United States Conference of Mayors’ Report on Hunger and Homelessness: A status report on hunger and homelessness in America’s cities. https://endhomelessness.atavist.com/mayorsreport2016. Published December 2016. Accessed August 8, 2017.

      With chronically high poverty rates predicted to remain elevated,

      Sawhill IV, Joo N. The fed as poverty fighter. The Brookings Institute website. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/social-mobility-memos/2015/09/15/the-fed-as-poverty-fighter/. Published September 15, 2015. Accessed September 11, 2017.

      it is critical to identify the complex household circumstances that contribute to food insecurity, and implement immediate, sustained, and holistic approaches to achieve food security.
      US households experiencing food insecurity are uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food to meet the needs of all household members because of insufficient resources or other barriers to obtaining adequate food.

      Coleman-Jensen A, Rabbitt MP, Gregory CA, Singh A. Household food insecurity in the United States in 2016 [ERR-237]. Economic Research Service website. https://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/pub-details?pubid=84972. Published September 2017. Accessed September 11, 2017.

      Low and very-low household food security are characterized by varying attributes, as summarized in Figure 1. Food insecurity remains distinct from hunger, which is a physiological response leading to physical discomfort associated with a lack of food.

      US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Definitions of food security. https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-us/definitions-of-food-security/. Updated October 4, 2016. Accessed August 8, 2017.

      This distinction is important because many coping strategies employed by food-insecure households to avoid the physical sensation of hunger can have both short- and long-term health implications.
      Food insecurity is often an episodic, recurrent phenomenon. On average, a household remains food insecure for 7 months out of the year.

      US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Frequency of food insecurity. https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-us/frequency-of-food-insecurity/. Updated October 4, 2016. Accessed August 8, 2017.

      This results in times of the month and years when food is more readily available and accessible than others. Food availability is often unpredictable and cyclical for high-risk households, and this food instability is a distinct and understudied aspect of food insecurity that underlies many of the coping strategies observed in food-insecure households.
      • Seligman H.K.
      • Schillinger D.
      Hunger and socioeconomic disparities in chronic disease.
      Regardless of cause, individuals and households experiencing food insecurity often deploy coping strategies, such as seeking calorically dense and satiating foods that are often nutritionally inadequate, which can limit dietary variety or promote overeating when food is available.
      • Seligman H.K.
      • Schillinger D.
      Hunger and socioeconomic disparities in chronic disease.
      The subsequent risk factors and adaptive behaviors observed among many people struggling with food insecurity explain some of the associated health outcomes discussed here.

      Food Insecurity: Potential Causes and Correlations

      Household food insecurity often stems from limited resources. As such, poverty, underemployment or unemployment, and high housing costs are strongly associated with food insecurity.

      The United States Conference of Mayors. The United States Conference of Mayors’ Report on Hunger and Homelessness: A status report on hunger and homelessness in America’s cities. https://endhomelessness.atavist.com/mayorsreport2016. Published December 2016. Accessed August 8, 2017.

      The literature also demonstrates that food insecurity is often triggered by inflation, food prices, or a specific event that stresses the household budget, such as losing a job or benefits (including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [SNAP]), or gaining a household resident.

      Nord M, Coleman-Jensen A, Gregory C. Prevalence of U.S. food insecurity is related to changes in unemployment, inflation, and the price of food. Economic Research Service website. https://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/pub-details/?pubid=45216. Published June 2014. Accessed September 11, 2017.

      • Rose D.
      Economic determinants and dietary consequences of food insecurity in the United States.
      Tuttle and Beatty

      Tuttle CJ, Beatty TKM. The effect of energy price shocks on household food security in low-income households. Economic Research Service website. https://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/pub-details/?pubid=84240. Published July 2017. Accessed September 11, 2017.

      underscored the vulnerability of low-income households to food insecurity on expected increases in gasoline, natural gas, and electricity prices. A rise in price increases the probability of household food insecurity, and a decrease in prices lowers the probability.

      Tuttle CJ, Beatty TKM. The effect of energy price shocks on household food security in low-income households. Economic Research Service website. https://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/pub-details/?pubid=84240. Published July 2017. Accessed September 11, 2017.

      Food-insecure households must make difficult tradeoffs, such as choosing between buying food and buying or paying for other items or needs, including medication,
      • Biros M.H.
      • Hoffman P.L.
      • Resch K.
      The prevalence and perceived health consequences of hunger in emergency department patient populations.
      • Sullivan A.F.
      • Clark S.
      • Pallin D.J.
      • Camargo
      • Carlos Jr., A.
      Food security, health, and medication expenditures of emergency department patients.
      housing,
      • Cook J.T.
      • Frank D.A.
      • Levenson S.M.
      • et al.
      Child food insecurity increases risks posed by household food insecurity to young children’s health.
      and utilities.
      • Nord M.
      • Kantor L.S.
      Seasonal variation in food insecurity is associated with heating and cooling costs among low-income elderly Americans.
      • Frank D.A.
      • Neault N.B.
      • Skalicky A.
      • et al.
      Heat or eat: The low income home energy assistance program and nutritional and health risks among children less than 3 years of age.
      Of those relying on the Feeding America network, 69% report competing demands between paying for food and utilities, 66% between food and medicine/medical bills, and 31% between food and education.

      Weinfield NS, Mills G, Borger C, et al. Hunger in America 2014: National report. Feeding America website. http://help.feedingamerica.org/HungerInAmerica/hunger-in-america-2014-full-report.pdf. Published August 2014. Accessed August 7, 2017.

      Many strategies are used by households experiencing food insecurity to obtain sufficient food resources. These include, but are not limited to, participating in federal food and nutrition assistance programs, obtaining food from charitable or emergency feeding systems (food pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters), gardening fruits and vegetables for home use, hunting/fishing for household food, receiving aid from family and friends, and purchasing less-expensive foods.

      Weinfield NS, Mills G, Borger C, et al. Hunger in America 2014: National report. Feeding America website. http://help.feedingamerica.org/HungerInAmerica/hunger-in-america-2014-full-report.pdf. Published August 2014. Accessed August 7, 2017.

      Food Insecurity: Nutritional and Health Outcomes and Associations across the Lifespan

      Food insecurity is a high priority for public health stakeholders, given its negative impact from both public health and economic perspectives.
      • Gundersen C.
      • Kreider B.
      Bounding the effects of food insecurity on children’s health outcomes.
      Documented outcomes include physical impairments related to insufficient or inadequate dietary intakes, psychological issues related to a lack of consistent and adequate food access, and sociofamilial disturbances.
      • Rose D.
      Economic determinants and dietary consequences of food insecurity in the United States.
      Across the lifespan, food insecurity often results in disrupted eating patterns that can lead to suboptimal nutritional status.
      • Cook J.T.
      • Frank D.A.
      • Levenson S.M.
      • et al.
      Child food insecurity increases risks posed by household food insecurity to young children’s health.
      • Gundersen C.
      • Kreider B.
      Bounding the effects of food insecurity on children’s health outcomes.
      • Gundersen C.
      • Ziliak J.P.
      Food insecurity and health outcomes.
      • Holben D.H.
      Position of the American Dietetic Association: Food insecurity in the United States.
      • Hanson K.L.
      • Connor L.M.
      Food insecurity and dietary quality in US adults and children: A systematic review.
      • Laraia B.A.
      Food insecurity and chronic disease.
      These changes in dietary consumption contribute to negative physical and mental outcomes and an increased risk for disease. These nutrition-related health outcomes will be explained in detail in the sections that follow and are grouped according to lifespan.

      Food Insecurity and Dietary Intake

      Overall, the literature demonstrates that individuals residing in food-insecure households often follow dietary patterns that are inadequate in specific foods and nutrients. These nutritional inadequacies may contribute to malnutrition and increased risk of poor health, chronic disease, and other outcomes.
      • Hanson K.L.
      • Connor L.M.
      Food insecurity and dietary quality in US adults and children: A systematic review.
      • Dixon L.B.
      • Winkleby M.A.
      • Radimer K.L.
      Dietary intakes and serum nutrients differ between adults from food-insufficient and food-sufficient families: Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988-1994.
      One explanation for variations in consumption between food-secure and food-insecure households may be linked to food expenditures. In 2016, the typical US household spent $50 per person on food weekly, with a median food-secure household spending 29% more on food than the median food-insecure household.

      Coleman-Jensen A, Rabbitt MP, Gregory CA, Singh A. Household food insecurity in the United States in 2016 [ERR-237]. Economic Research Service website. https://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/pub-details?pubid=84972. Published September 2017. Accessed September 11, 2017.

      Furthermore, nearly 80% of recipients of charitable food programs reported purchasing unhealthy, less-expensive food as a strategy to stretch their food budget. Not surprisingly, people utilizing charitable food sources indicated that fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and dairy were the most desirable items, foods that are often inaccessible, in terms of both availability and affordability for many people living with food insecurity.

      Weinfield NS, Mills G, Borger C, et al. Hunger in America 2014: National report. Feeding America website. http://help.feedingamerica.org/HungerInAmerica/hunger-in-america-2014-full-report.pdf. Published August 2014. Accessed August 7, 2017.

      Child/Adolescent Health- and Development-Related Outcomes

      Although children are typically protected from very-low food security in the United States, food insecurity and subsequent nutritional inadequacy is associated with lower overall dietary quality in children, especially older children.
      • Kaiser L.L.
      • Townsend M.S.
      Food insecurity among US children: Implications for nutrition and health.
      Food insecurity has been associated with decreased consumption of vegetables, particularly nutrient-rich, dark green vegetables, among US children.
      • Casey P.H.
      • Szeto K.
      • Lensing S.
      • Bogle M.
      • Weber J.
      Children in food-insufficient, low-income families: Prevalence, health, and nutrition status.
      In contrast, Lorson and colleagues,
      • Lorson B.A.
      • Melgar-Quinonez H.
      • Taylor C.A.
      Correlates of fruit and vegetable intakes in US children.
      reported that, although total fruit and vegetable intakes of all US children were below recommended levels, intake did not vary among children from fully food-secure, marginally food-secure, low food-secure, and very-low food-secure households. At the same time, compared with their food-secure counterparts, the proportion of french fries consumed by children and adolescents living in food-insecure households accounted for a greater proportion of total vegetable intake.
      • Lorson B.A.
      • Melgar-Quinonez H.
      • Taylor C.A.
      Correlates of fruit and vegetable intakes in US children.
      Widome and colleagues
      • Widome R.
      • Neumark-Sztainer D.
      • Hannan P.J.
      • Haines J.
      • Story M.
      Eating when there is not enough to eat: Eating behaviors and perceptions of food among food-insecure youths.
      examined diet quality and food insecurity among middle and high school youth. Compared with youth living in food-secure households, youth living in food-insecure households consumed a greater percentage of calories from fat, ate fewer family meals and breakfasts, had less food availability at home, and perceived greater barriers to consuming a healthful diet.
      • Widome R.
      • Neumark-Sztainer D.
      • Hannan P.J.
      • Haines J.
      • Story M.
      Eating when there is not enough to eat: Eating behaviors and perceptions of food among food-insecure youths.
      Low dietary iron (in young children and adolescents) and low fruit intakes were also associated with food insecurity.
      • Hanson K.L.
      • Connor L.M.
      Food insecurity and dietary quality in US adults and children: A systematic review.
      Gundersen and Kreider
      • Gundersen C.
      • Kreider B.
      Bounding the effects of food insecurity on children’s health outcomes.
      reported that children living in food-insecure households had a greater risk for a myriad of health and related problems, including poor overall health, mental health and psychosocial issues, frequent stomach and headaches, more hospital admissions, and higher rates of iron deficiency, and they exhibited poorer developmental outcomes, including learning readiness. Furthermore, the authors suggested that previous studies may underestimate the negative causal impacts of food insecurity on health, due to, among others, the mismeasurement of household food insecurity. Chronic health conditions and behaviors, including anemia and asthma; childhood aggression; anxiety and depression; hyperactivity
      • Cook J.T.
      • Black M.
      • Chilton M.
      • et al.
      Are food insecurity’s health impacts underestimated in the US population? Marginal food security also predicts adverse health outcomes in young US children and mothers.

      Oostra R. A case to end U.S. hunger using collaboration to improve population health. ProMedica website. https://www.promedica.org/Public%20Documents/a-case-to-end-hunger.pdf. Accessed September 11, 2017.

      ; dental caries
      • Chi D.L.
      • Masterson E.E.
      • Carle A.C.
      • Mancl L.A.
      • Coldwell S.E.
      Socioeconomic status, food security, and dental caries in US children: Mediation analyses of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2007-2008.
      ; fracture risk (among males)
      • Eicher-Miller H.
      • Mason A.C.
      • Weaver C.M.
      • McCabe G.P.
      • Boushey C.J.
      Food insecurity is associated with diet and bone mass disparities in early adolescent males but not females in the United States.
      ; and reduced physical activity,
      • To Q.G.
      • Frongillo E.A.
      • Gallegos D.
      • Moore J.B.
      Household food insecurity is associated with less physical activity among children and adults in the US population.
      have all been associated with food insecurity.
      The literature remains inconsistent related to food insecurity and increased risk for childhood/adolescent overweight and obesity.
      • Kaur J.
      • Lamb M.M.
      • Ogden C.L.
      The association between food insecurity and obesity in children: The national health and nutrition examination survey.
      • Holben D.H.
      • Taylor C.A.
      Food insecurity and its association with central obesity and other markers of metabolic syndrome among persons aged 12 to 18 years in the United States.
      • Lohman B.J.
      • Stewart S.
      • Gundersen C.
      • Garasky S.
      • Eisenmann J.C.
      Adolescent overweight and obesity: Links to food insecurity and individual, maternal, and family stressors.
      • Nguyen B.T.
      • Ford C.N.
      • Yaroch A.L.
      • Shuval K.
      • Drope J.
      Food security and weight status in children: Interactions with food assistance programs.
      • Larson N.I.
      • Story M.T.
      Food insecurity and weight status among US children and families: A review of the literature.
      Nguyen and colleagues
      • Nguyen B.T.
      • Ford C.N.
      • Yaroch A.L.
      • Shuval K.
      • Drope J.
      Food security and weight status in children: Interactions with food assistance programs.
      reported that, in a nationally representative sample of children 9 to 17 years of age, body mass index was not significantly different among household food-security groups. Yet, the relationship differed by participation in nutrition assistance programs (SNAP, National School Lunch), reinforcing the need for additional research.
      In addition to chronic health conditions suffered by children living in food-insecure households, these children are also more likely to implement coping strategies that can increase their risk for chronic disease extending into adulthood. This includes erratic dietary patterns when food becomes available, such as binging eating and food hoarding.
      • Berkowitz S.A.
      • Seligman H.K.
      • Choudhry N.K.
      Treat or eat: Food insecurity, cost-related medication underuse, and unmet needs.

      Adult and Older Adult Chronic Disease Risk, Disease Management, and Environmental Contributors/Outcomes

      Adults

      Food insecurity among adults is associated with inadequate intakes of vitamin A and B-6, in addition to inadequate intake of vegetables, fruits, and dairy.
      • Hanson K.L.
      • Connor L.M.
      Food insecurity and dietary quality in US adults and children: A systematic review.
      Poor nutrition outcomes were also documented in nationally representative samples of food-insecure adults and older adults.
      • Dixon L.B.
      • Winkleby M.A.
      • Radimer K.L.
      Dietary intakes and serum nutrients differ between adults from food-insufficient and food-sufficient families: Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988-1994.
      • Bhattacharya J.
      • Currie J.
      • Haider S.
      Poverty, food insecurity, and nutritional outcomes in children and adults.
      Still other studies have focused on SNAP participants.

      Gregory C, Ver Ploeg M, Andrews M, Coleman-Jensen A. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participation leads to modest changes in diet quality. Economic Research Service website. https://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/pub-details/?pubid=45062. Updated April 24, 2013. Accessed September 11, 2017.

      • Nguyen B.T.
      • Shuval K.
      • Njike V.Y.
      • Katz D.L.
      The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and dietary quality among US adults: Findings from a nationally representative survey.
      When compared with income-eligible non-SNAP participants, SNAP participants consumed more sugar-sweetened beverages and empty calories.
      • Nguyen B.T.
      • Shuval K.
      • Njike V.Y.
      • Katz D.L.
      The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and dietary quality among US adults: Findings from a nationally representative survey.
      Overall, SNAP participants had lower diet quality for many components, yet reported consuming less saturated fat and sodium.

      Gregory C, Ver Ploeg M, Andrews M, Coleman-Jensen A. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participation leads to modest changes in diet quality. Economic Research Service website. https://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/pub-details/?pubid=45062. Updated April 24, 2013. Accessed September 11, 2017.

      Among US adults, energy intakes did not differ between food-secure and food-insecure adults. Rather, meal and snack behaviors differed, with food-insecure adults consuming fewer, but larger, meals and more snacks. This eating behavior may have compensated for the reduced meal frequency.
      • Zizza C.A.
      • Duffy P.A.
      • Gerrior S.A.
      Food insecurity is not associated with lower energy intakes.
      These and similar studies underscore the importance of adequately assessing meal and snack behaviors, dietary patterns, and dietary supplement intakes, rather than focusing solely on energy intake when evaluating diet quality of adults living with food insecurity, especially among those participating in SNAP.
      While the mechanisms remain poorly understood, adult food insecurity has been associated with poor physical and mental health status.
      • Holben D.H.
      Position of the American Dietetic Association: Food insecurity in the United States.
      Specific health conditions associated with food insecurity include inflammation, which is correlated with numerous chronic conditions,
      • Gowda C.
      • Hadley C.
      • Aiello A.E.
      The association between food insecurity and inflammation in the US adult population.
      sleep disorders,
      • Grandner M.A.
      • Petrov M.E.R.
      • Rattanaumpawan P.
      • Jackson N.
      • Platt A.
      • Patel N.P.
      Sleep symptoms, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic position.
      kidney disease,
      • Crews D.C.
      • Kuczmarski M.F.
      • Grubbs V.
      • et al.
      Effect of food insecurity on chronic kidney disease in lower-income Americans.
      human immunodeficiency virus infection, diabetes, and depression (in women).
      • Holben D.H.
      Position of the American Dietetic Association: Food insecurity in the United States.
      Depression, while associated with food insecurity, may be reduced by SNAP participation
      • Leung C.W.
      • Epel E.S.
      • Willett W.C.
      • Rimm E.B.
      • Laraia B.A.
      Household food insecurity is positively associated with depression among low-income Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participants and income-eligible nonparticipants.
      because some stressors can be alleviated through SNAP participation. In a nationally representative sample, among working-age US adults living at or below 200% of federal poverty level, lower food insecurity is associated with high probability of 10 chronic diseases, including hypertension, coronary heart disease, hepatitis, stroke, cancer, asthma, diabetes, arthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and kidney disease.

      Gregory CA, Coleman-Jensen A. Food Insecurity, Chronic Disease, and Health Among Working-Age Adults, ERR-235. https://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/pub-details/?pubid=84466. Updated July 31, 2017. Accessed September 11, 2017.

      In fact, of those 10 conditions examined, food insecurity is predictive of all 10, while income is only predictive of 3.

      Gregory CA, Coleman-Jensen A. Food Insecurity, Chronic Disease, and Health Among Working-Age Adults, ERR-235. https://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/pub-details/?pubid=84466. Updated July 31, 2017. Accessed September 11, 2017.

      While overweight and obesity coexist in those living in both food-secure and food-insecure households, food insecurity is associated with overweight and obesity among women from households experiencing marginal food security or low food security. Both food hoarding
      • Olson C.M.
      Food insecurity in women: A recipe for unhealthy trade-offs.
      and overconsumption of energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods may contribute to this phenomenon.
      • Darmon N.
      • Drewnowski A.
      Contribution of food prices and diet cost to socioeconomic disparities in diet quality and health: A systematic review and analysis.
      • Drewnowski A.
      Obesity, diets, and social inequalities.
      • Drewnowski A.
      • Specter S.E.
      Poverty and obesity: The role of energy density and energy costs.
      In a national sample of US individuals with low-incomes, self-reported hyperlipidemia, hypertension, and diabetes were associated with food insecurity.
      • Seligman H.K.
      • Laraia B.A.
      • Kushel M.B.
      Food insecurity is associated with chronic disease among low-income NHANES participants.
      More than half (58%) of households served by the Feeding America network reported that at least one household member had hypertension, and 33% of client households reported at least one member with diabetes.

      Weinfield NS, Mills G, Borger C, et al. Hunger in America 2014: National report. Feeding America website. http://help.feedingamerica.org/HungerInAmerica/hunger-in-america-2014-full-report.pdf. Published August 2014. Accessed August 7, 2017.

      People living with food insecurity also have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and also face many more challenges managing their disease.
      • Gucciardi E.
      • Vahabi M.
      • Norris N.
      • Del Monte J.P.
      • Farnum C.
      The intersection between food insecurity and diabetes: A review.
      In a nationally representative sample of adults with diabetes, Berkowitz and colleagues
      • Berkowitz S.A.
      • Baggett T.P.
      • Wexler D.J.
      • Huskey K.W.
      • Wee C.C.
      Food insecurity and metabolic control among U.S. adults with diabetes.
      report that food insecurity is associated with poor glycemic and cholesterol control, even after controlling for numerous demographic, socioeconomic, and clinical factors.
      Other health-related behaviors, such as smoking, are also associated with food insecurity.
      • Iglesias-Rios L.
      • Bromberg J.E.
      • Moser R.P.
      • Augustson E.M.
      Food insecurity, cigarette smoking, and acculturation among Latinos: Data from NHANES 1999-2008.
      • Cutler-Triggs C.
      • Fryer G.E.
      • Miyoshi T.J.
      • Weitzman M.
      Increased rates and severity of child and adult food insecurity in households with adult smokers.
      Although the literature remains limited, it is hypothesized that environmental factors also relate to or contribute to food insecurity. These factors, such as local food prices, availability of transportation, social capital, stress, and use of tobacco as an appetite suppressant, warrant additional research to better understand their relationship to, or impact on, food insecurity.
      • Larson N.I.
      • Story M.T.
      Food insecurity and weight status among US children and families: A review of the literature.
      Olson
      • Olson C.M.
      Food insecurity in women: A recipe for unhealthy trade-offs.
      reviewed food insecurity in adult females and emphasized that managing family feeding increases vulnerability to inadequate eating patterns. With the threat of approaching food insecurity, fruits and vegetables are often sacrificed in the diet. Women might modify their own dietary intakes to spare dependent family members, especially children, from experiencing deprivation.
      • McIntyre L.
      • Glanville N.T.
      • Raine K.D.
      • Dayle J.B.
      • Anderson B.
      • Battaglia N.
      Do low-income lone mothers compromise their nutrition to feed their children?.
      For US females who are pregnant, dietary iron intake is not significantly different between those living in food-secure and food-insecure households, yet food-insecure households consume less supplemental iron. This discrepancy results in a reduction in total iron intake, which increases the odds of iron deficiency by 2.9 times.
      • Park C.Y.
      • Eicher-Miller H.
      Iron deficiency is associated with food insecurity in pregnant females in the United States: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2010.

      Older Adults

      Food insecurity can have a more severe impact on older adults who may be in poor health and experience other physical, psychological, and social conditions that impact their food-security status. These conditions must be taken into account when addressing food insecurity within this vulnerable population. However, research regarding the effect of food insecurity on the nutrient intakes and health outcomes of older adults remains limited.

      Ziliak JP, Gundersen C, Haist MP. The causes, consequences, and future of senior hunger in America. National Foundation to End Senior Hunger website. https://www.nfesh.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Causes+Consequences+and+Future+of+Senior+Hunger+2008.pdf. Published 2008. Accessed August 8, 2017.

      Overall, there is an inverse relationship between age and food insecurity, even among older adults seeking assistance from emergency food sources.

      DelVecchio Dys T, Hake M, Morgan B, O’Leary M. Baby boomers and beyond: Facing hunger after fifty. Feeding America website. http://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/our-research/senior-hunger-research/baby-boomers-executive-summary.pdf. Published July 2015. Accessed August 8, 2017.

      Yet, among those seeking charitable food assistance, households with older adults have some of the highest rates of hypertension and diabetes. Seventy-seven percent of households with a senior adult have at least one member with hypertension, and 47% had at least one member with diabetes.

      Weinfield NS, Mills G, Borger C, et al. Hunger in America 2014: National report. Feeding America website. http://help.feedingamerica.org/HungerInAmerica/hunger-in-america-2014-full-report.pdf. Published August 2014. Accessed August 7, 2017.

      Among older Medicare beneficiaries, medication nonadherence can contribute to poor diabetes management.
      • Sattler E.L.P.
      • Lee J.S.
      • Bhargava V.
      Food insecurity and medication adherence in low-income older Medicare beneficiaries with type 2 diabetes.
      Hernandez and colleagues
      • Hernandez D.C.
      • Reesor L.
      • Murillo R.
      Gender disparities in the food insecurity-overweight and food insecurity-obesity paradox among low-income older adults.
      assessed the association between overweight and obesity among a nationally representative sample of US adults aged 60 years and older with an income less 200% of the federal poverty level and a body mass index ≥18.5 (self-reported height and weight). While further research is needed to fully understand the relationship of food insecurity to overweight and obesity among older adults, unlike men, a significantly greater proportion of low-income, food-insecure women were obese (40%) compared with their food-secure counterparts (32%).
      • Hernandez D.C.
      • Reesor L.
      • Murillo R.
      Gender disparities in the food insecurity-overweight and food insecurity-obesity paradox among low-income older adults.
      In addition, a significantly lower proportion of low-income, food-insecure women were normal weight (26%) compared with food-secure women (35%).
      • Hernandez D.C.
      • Reesor L.
      • Murillo R.
      Gender disparities in the food insecurity-overweight and food insecurity-obesity paradox among low-income older adults.
      Food insecurity among older adults may not only impact the risk of chronic disease, but can also increase the risk of disability and, in turn, negatively impact physical, emotional, and financial status.
      • Lee J.S.
      • Frongillo E.A.
      • J
      Nutritional and health consequences are associated with food insecurity among U.S. elderly persons.
      As such, food-insecure older adults have poorer dietary intake, nutritional status, and health status than food-secure older adults.
      • Lee J.S.
      • Frongillo E.A.
      • J
      Nutritional and health consequences are associated with food insecurity among U.S. elderly persons.
      Proper nutrition among this population is imperative because older adults often have unique nutritional needs and sometimes require specific diets to manage their health conditions. Addressing the risks of being food insecure among older adults is important because adults older than 65 years are expected to almost double in the United States by the year 2050.

      Ortman JM, Velkoff VA, Hogan H. An aging nation: The older population in the United States: Population estimates and projections. US Census Bureau website. https://www.census.gov/prod/2014pubs/p25-1140.pdf. Issued May 2014. Accessed August 8, 2017.

      Adults and Older Adults

      To date, most of the research on adults and older adults has examined health status using food insecurity as one predictor of outcomes. In a Canadian cohort, Tarasuk and others
      • Tarasuk V.
      • Mitchell A.
      • McLaren L.
      • McIntyre L.
      Chronic physical and mental health conditions among adults may increase vulnerability to household food insecurity.
      reported that most chronic physical and mental health conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, fibromyalgia, and depression, increased the odds of food insecurity, independent of household demographics. Although further investigation is needed due to differing health care environments and food-insecurity measurement classifications in Canada, this study underscores the possibility that chronic physical and mental health conditions may precipitate household food insecurity.

      Health Care Utilization and Costs

      Because of the association between food insecurity and chronic disease, its implications on the quality, utilization, and cost of health care have been explored. Regarding type 2 diabetes, adults without reliable and consistent food access also have poorer medication adherence and report higher diabetes distress, both predictors of poor glycemic control and likely contributors to the higher utilization of health care.
      • Seligman H.K.
      • Laraia B.A.
      • Kushel M.B.
      Food insecurity is associated with chronic disease among low-income NHANES participants.
      Unreliable access to food and the exhaustion of resources may also be responsible for the increase in hypoglycemia-related hospital admissions observed in low-income individuals when monthly benefits are depleted, a phenomena not observed among those with higher incomes.
      • Seligman H.K.
      • Bolger A.F.
      • Guzman D.
      • López A.
      • Bibbins-Domingo K.
      Exhaustion of food budgets at month’s end and hospital admissions for hypoglycemia.
      Despite having a different health care system than the United States, further insights into the increased health care costs of food insecurity come from a Canadian study that documented that total and mean health care costs (including inpatient hospital care, emergency department visits, physician services, same-day surgery, home care services, and prescription drugs) systematically increased with lower household food security.
      • Tarasuk V.
      • Cheng J.
      • de Oliveira C.
      • Dachner N.
      • Gundersen C.
      • Kurdyak P.
      Association between household food insecurity and annual health care costs.
      Further research is warranted to elucidate the health care costs associated with, and resulting from, food insecurity.
      Consistent with other preventable health conditions and diseases, avoiding food insecurity or addressing it earlier in its cycle would be a wise and more cost-effective approach. The recent developments in the health care landscape have changed the incentive structures for health care providers, prioritizing both population and preventive health care.
      • Berwick D.M.
      • Nolan T.W.
      • Whittington J.
      The triple aim: Care, health, and cost.
      These shifts create an opportunity to integrate food-security strategies into the broader health care movement to address the social determinants of health both within and outside of the traditional hospital and health care environments.

      Food Insecurity: Strategies and Solutions

      A variety of strategies are utilized by households when faced with fiscal resource constraints competing with food purchases. Robust safety-net programs appear vital in bridging temporary fiscal gaps associated with short-term food insecurity often resulting from transitional periods during unemployment, illness, disabilities, or other unforeseen economic stressors. Federal nutrition assistance programs, along with community-based programs, have been developed and implemented to improve food-security status. Although adequate funding for federal nutrition assistance programs is vital to maintain the integrity of the US nutrition safety net, it cannot be the sole response to this complex issue. Several federal and non-federal programs address a variety of aspects of food insecurity (Figure 3). In addition to these programs, state and local food-security centers, professional organizations, nonprofit organizations, including the charitable food system, and many foundations help support food-insecurity−related program responses and research. Overall, a long-term, systematic, broad-based approach is required to effectively sustain vital economic social systems to prevent and alleviate food insecurity.
      • McCullum C.
      • Desjardins E.
      • Kraak V.I.
      • Ladipo P.
      • Costello H.
      Evidence-based strategies to build community food security.

      Federal and Nonfederal Food and Nutrition Programs

      Additional research is needed to fully understand the breadth of benefits and long-term efficacy of federal and charitable food and nutrition assistance programs. Households with the highest levels of food insecurity are more likely to choose to participate in federal nutrition assistance programs, such as SNAP. This may explain why improvements in overall food-security rates are not greater for participants compared to nonparticipants of these programs.
      • Kaiser L.L.
      • Townsend M.S.
      Food insecurity among US children: Implications for nutrition and health.
      However, there is evidence that supports the association between participation in SNAP and lower levels of food insecurity when controlling for program selection bias.

      Mabli J, Ohls J, Dragoset L, Castner L, Santos B. Measuring the Effect of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Participation on Food Security. Food and Nutrition Service website. https://fns-prod.azureedge.net/sites/default/files/Measuring2013.pdf. Published August 2013. Accessed October 31, 2017.

      Multifaceted Responses to Food Insecurity

      Long-term interventions and multifaceted initiatives are needed to positively impact and prevent food insecurity in the United States. These solutions should include connecting food-insecure households with adequate and nutritious food and providing nutrition education, while addressing the underlying causes of food insecurity, such as unemployment, underemployment, limited household resources/assets, unstable housing, poor health, low education, and poverty. McCullum and colleagues
      • McCullum C.
      • Desjardins E.
      • Kraak V.I.
      • Ladipo P.
      • Costello H.
      Evidence-based strategies to build community food security.
      recommend creating multisector partnerships and networks that include government and public health agencies, educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, and the volunteer sector in developing the necessary infrastructure to reduce food insecurity and promote nutritional stability. Examples of collaborative initiatives include: 1) food and benefit outreach assistance programs supported by local nonprofit organizations, which connect qualified individuals to available benefits, such as federal nutrition programs, Medicaid, earned income tax credit, and economic support; 2) food purchasing incentive programs to reduce fiscal barriers and encourage nutritious food purchases; 3) initiatives to promote access to fresh produce in low-income communities (eg, farmers’ markets, gleaning programs, and community gardens); 4) farm-to-school or institution initiatives assisting local farmers in selling fresh produce directly to school meal programs, colleges/universities, and other organizations to bring local, fresh produce to consumers; 5) food recovery programs at schools, institutions, restaurants, and within communities to rescue wholesome food and distribute to those in need; 6) advocacy to ensure adequate funding for, and increased utilization of, food and nutrition assistance programs, including those providing innovative nutrition education and training; 7) widespread food-security screening in all settings and subsequent referrals to community assistance and health care providers; and 8) development of initiatives that promote and improve local food systems, such as charitable food and feeding programs, farmers’ markets, community gardens, and farm-to-school programs.
      • McCullum C.
      • Desjardins E.
      • Kraak V.I.
      • Ladipo P.
      • Costello H.
      Evidence-based strategies to build community food security.

      Roles and Responsibilities of Registered Dietitian Nutritionists and Nutrition and Dietetics Technicians, Registered

      Registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) and nutrition and dietetics technicians, registered (NDTRs) across all areas of practice have a central role in addressing food insecurity and are uniquely positioned to lead and support developing, implementing, and evaluating strategies to improve food security. Figure 4 summarizes key areas where RDNs and NDTRs can continue to make valuable contributions toward achieving food security through community-based education, practice, research, advocacy, and public policy. The Academy of Nutrition Dietetics’ House of Delegates food-security action plan also outlines areas of action for RDNs and NDTRs.

      Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Report to the House of Delegates (HOD): Food and Nutrition Security Task Force 2014. http://www.eatrightpro.org/∼/media/eatrightpro%20files/leadership/hod/mega%20issues/food-and-nutrition-security-report-action-plan.ashx. Approved May 2, 2014. Accessed August 8, 2017.

      In 2015, to fill competency gaps, a Food Insecurity/Food Bank Dietetic Internship Concentration within the dietetic internship process was launched.
      • Handu D.
      • Medrow L.
      • Brown K.
      Preparing future registered dietitian nutritionists for working with food insecurity: A new food insecurity/food banking supervised practice concentration piloted with dietetic interns.
      Because of the tremendous dietary and health implications associated with food insecurity, it is paramount that nutrition and dietetics practitioners take a leadership role in identifying, addressing, and preventing food insecurity within their scope of practice.
      Figure 4Contributions that registered dietitian nutritionists and nutrition and dietetics technicians, registered, can make to improve food security in the United States.
      Education and Practice
      • Incorporate food-security−related concepts and experiential learning into dietetics education programs using creative pedagogy.
      • Promote and encourage students to participate in education programs that have a food insecurity/food bank supervised practice experience and/or concentration.
      • Learn about food insecurity and its consequences on individuals, households, and communities.
      • Conduct screening and measure food security status in all settings. Screen clients for food insecurity using a screening tool, such as the following validated 2-item screener by Hager and colleagues,
        • Hager E.R.
        • Quigg A.M.
        • Black M.M.
        • et al.
        Development and validity of a 2-item screen to identify families at risk for food insecurity.
        and refer clients to appropriate health care and community-based resources:
        • 1.
          Within the past 12 months we worried whether our food would run out before we got money to buy more. (Response choices: sometimes, never, always)
        • 2.
          Within the past 12 months the food we bought just didn’t last and we didn’t have money to get more. (Response choices: sometimes, never, always)
      • Communicate food-insecurity−related information to other professionals, legislators, policy makers, and community members to increase awareness of food insecurity and its outcomes.
      • Provide appropriate nutrition care by obtaining/considering food access- and availability-related information during assessments.
      • Understand the culture of the local community to further assist in determining appropriate questions and/or information to include about food and nutrition security during the nutritional care process. Information to gather may include:
        • factors such as food and beverage intake (amount/variety/quality);
        • food planning and purchasing abilities and limitations, including availability of transportation;
        • food acquisition practices, including gardening, farming, gleaning, hunting/fishing, and/or begging, borrowing, scavenging, or stealing food;
        • cultural food habits;
        • preparation abilities and limitations, including availability of appliances and utilities;
        • food-safety practices;
        • federal and community food and nutrition assistance program utilization;
        • information related to building and utilizing social networks;
        • anthropometric measurements, including growth pattern and/or weight changes; and
        • nutrition education needs regarding meal planning, purchasing, and preparation, label reading, and food safety.
      • Realize that food insecurity may make purchasing food difficult for the patient, thus preventing compliance to a prescribed diet.
      • Implement strategies to decrease food loss and waste throughout the food system, from producer to consumer.
        • Martin D.S.
        Food waste: A solvable problem.
        • Spiker M.L.
        • Hiza H.A.B.
        • Siddiqi S.M.
        • Neff R.A.
        Wasted food, wasted nutrients: Nutrient loss from wasted food in the United States and comparison gaps in dietary intake.
      • Partner with other professionals to alleviate food insecurity (eg, pediatricians, physicians, and other health care professionals across specialty areas; public health professionals; school/child nutrition professionals; urban planners; and others).
      • Network with organizations and stakeholders addressing food insecurity within the community. Examples include food and nutrition assistance programs, emergency food and meal programs, food recovery groups, farmers’ markets, community-supported agriculture farms, community gardens, anti-hunger advocacy organizations, and food cooperatives.
      • Educate eligible clients on the availability and benefits of federal and non-federal resources available in the community and make referrals or recommend participation.
      • Develop innovative interventions and programs that provide nutrition education, training, and research to improve the food security of individuals, households, and communities.
      • Create initiatives highlighting the benefits of local, seasonal, and sustainably grown foods, focusing on the development of effective household management strategies and food preparation, and creating food-based projects that foster economic development.
      Research
      • Conduct, translate, and disseminate research associated with food security/insecurity and related program efficacy, including safe, secure, and sustainable food systems.
        Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
        Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Food and water safety.
        Examples include:
        • mapping and evaluating community processes;
        • documenting the nutritional value of emergency foods and donor practices;
        • investigating the causes and effects of food insecurity and its relationships with physical and mental health, nutritional status, and well-being of at-risk groups;
        • exploring the impact of food system issues, including seasonal variation in food availability on food insecurity;
        • assessing the travel distance between stores, farmers’ markets, and other venues accepting Special Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and participants’ households and transportation availability; and
        • determining the effectiveness, such as cost−benefit analyses, of food recovery and other programs.
      • Participate in evaluating community-based programs designed to address food insecurity.
      • Partner with food security researchers, including those within the context of an interprofessional, integrated care team, and nonprofit organizations to determine what research gaps exist.
      Advocacy and Public Policy
      • Support legislative and regulatory processes that promote uniform, adequately funded food and nutrition assistance programs, nutrition education, and programs that support the economic stability of individuals and families.
      • Serve as advocates for the nutritionally vulnerable individuals and groups at increased risk for food insecurity.
      • Advocate to decrease the stigma of food assistance programs to increase participation rates.
      • Eliminate barriers to healthy eating among those at risk for and experiencing food insecurity.
      • Assist in efforts to improve food access and acquisition by individuals.
      • Assist in efforts to reduce food loss and waste across the food system (eg, food recovery and gleaning).
      • Partner with national, local, and state anti-hunger advocacy organizations.
      • Serve on a local food policy council, which examines local food systems and provides recommendations for social and public policy changes.
      • Advocate that stores accepting SNAP have nutrient-dense offerings for clientele.
      • Participate with Academy-related groups and use associated resources, including Academy Political Action Committee and annual Public Policy Workshop.
      Immediate and sustainable responses by RDNs and NDTRs are warranted to achieve food security. Adequate funding for, and increased utilization of, nutrition assistance programs, as well as innovative programming to promote and support household stability, are paramount. Dietetics practitioners should capitalize on their translational professional training and expertise, as well as their professional networking through Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ dietetic practice groups, member interest groups, state affiliates, and advocate for food-insecure households and programs aimed at alleviating food insecurity and its root causes.
      RDNs and NDTRs should also advocate for the inclusion of dietetics practitioners in community-based initiatives and research. RDNs and NDTRs are uniquely positioned to address food loss and waste within the food system. In addition, RDNs and NDTRs can facilitate referrals, provide targeted education, and empower individuals struggling with food insecurity. Specifically, RDNs and NDTRs can help those struggling with food insecurity to access and connect with existing programs and social services aimed at improving food and nutrition security and other areas (eg, employment, housing, and transportation assistance). To build and sustain solutions to achieve food security and promote health, RDNs and NDTRs should engage in outreach efforts to forge partnerships among clinicians, charitable food providers, community partners, food processors, food retailers, other stakeholders, and people living with food insecurity.

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      Linked Article

      • Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Food Insecurity in the United States
        Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and DieteticsVol. 117Issue 12
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          It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that systematic and sustained action is needed to achieve food and nutrition security in the United States. To achieve food security, effective interventions are needed, along with adequate funding for, and increased utilization of, food and nutrition assistance programs; inclusion of nutrition education in such programs; strategies to support individual and household economic stability; and research to measure impact on food insecurity- and health-related outcomes.
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