More than 14 percent of American families are food insecure, a new report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture has found.
According to the USDA, a family that is food insecure has limited or uncertain availability of food that can be acquired in socially acceptable ways while a family that is secure has access to enough food for all its members at all times.
Hearing that statistic may come as a shock to the 85 percent of Americans who never worry about putting food on the table. Even more disheartening is the fact that about 24 percent of West Virginia children under the age of 18 live in households that have faced food insecurity sometime in the past year.
While this is certainly an issue that needs addressing, it doesn’t necessarily mean people are going hungry. In fact, the state and national obesity rates are the highest they’ve ever been.
Despite there being 17.5 million food insecure families in America, less than 5 percent of adults say they went hungry last year. The USDA report says that number is even lower for children, at 1.3 percent.
So, if most of the population says it isn’t going hungry, what does food insecurity really mean?
The USDA says most instances of food insecurity involves food of reduced quality and variety rather than insufficient quantity. Basically, this means that people in food insecure households usually have enough to eat, but it lacks variety, quality and nutrition.
While not as dire a situation, we must consider the affect this has on public health and future generations.
Recent surveys have found that children in households with an annual income of less than $25,000 consume significantly more calories than children in households with incomes above $75,000. This supports the findings that children in poor households are more likely to be obese.
This is why the push to provide healthier school lunches is important despite some students outright refusal to eat them — a study of a Los Angeles school district found that 10.2 percent of fruit and 28.7 percent of vegetables were left over and that many students didn’t even take them from the lunch line.
People can’t be forced to eat healthy, especially when they cannot afford to do so. That is why school nutrition programs are so important. Without them, many children are left to eat processed foods high in fat, sugar and sodium.
As for those students who refuse to eat the healthier options, efforts to educate them about the importance of a balanced diet need to be improved.