Food insecurity is the limited or uncertain availability of safe and nutritionally adequate food, or the limited or uncertain capacity to purchase acceptable foods in a socially acceptable manner. Food insecurity is defined as the lack of constant access to sufficient food so that everyone in a household can lead an active and healthy life. This may be a temporary situation for a household, or it may last for a long time. Food insecurity is one way we can measure how many people cannot afford food.
There are many neighborhoods across the country that lack grocery stores or other markets in which to buy fresh food and produce; on the other hand, people in these neighborhoods usually have easy access only to fast food restaurants and convenience stores. For the past few decades, food insecurity rates have remained relatively stable, although changes in the economic situation certainly have an impact, as one would expect. When the price of food falls, demand can be expected to increase and food insecurity to decrease, and vice versa. The following map, which illustrates the percentage of the population of each state living in poverty, shows the strong correlation between food insecurity and poverty compared to the previous map.
For example, parents of food-insecure families may have enough food to feed their children, but they may experience hunger themselves. For example, some households have episodes of food insecurity, or even very low food security, despite having annual incomes greater than 100% of the FPL. Disabilities that cause cognitive limitations can affect the ability to remember to eat, to know how to cook or what to eat, or how to adequately budget for the consumption of necessary foods. Finally, their analysis estimates the cost of food in each county by category and the average cost of a meal for families with food security to estimate the likelihood that a typical family in a given county can afford a healthy meal.
Homeowners without a mortgage were found to be the least food-insecure (4.3 percent), followed by homeowners with a mortgage (11.6 percent) and renters (28.5 percent). Layoffs at work, unexpected car maintenance, or an accident at work can suddenly force a family to choose between buying food or paying bills. In short, Feeding America collects a comprehensive set of data on factors known to be highly correlated with food insecurity to estimate food insecurity in each county. Households are considered to have low food security if they report experiencing 3 or more indicators of food insecurity.
We could say that hunger is a possible consequence of food insecurity, but food insecurity does not always cause hunger. Respondents are also asked about behaviors that could be affected by food insecurity, such as reducing portion sizes, feeling worried or hungry, or losing weight. This survey evaluates the ability of households to meet their food needs, including how often they may not have eaten enough or no food at all during any period of the previous year.