A prevalent issue not usually considered by the average American is food insecurity. Food insecurity is the unsustainability and liability of having consistent nutritious meals. This could be caused by living in a low income area where there are a limited supply of grocery stores and supermarkets. There is a scale of food insecurity, with the lowest being reduced caloric intake and disrupted eating patterns and some less severe such as having a variety and less quality in their diet. Having no food security issues means that there are no worries and anxiety about when your next meal will be consumed. This issue is commonly associated with poverty and hunger, but can include so much more. Being food insecure does not entail that the consumer needs food stamps, but it could be living paycheck to paycheck and barely having enough money for food. Food insecurity causes disordered eating patterns and significant health issues associated with nutrition deficiencies. College students are large part of the food insecure population as well.
Last semester, I remember one of my classmates saying, “Do you ever just sleep off your hunger because you just can’t afford to buy another meal?”" I never thought much about sleeping off my hunger since I am fortunate enough to have adequate food to meet my daily needs while still living a college lifestyle of consuming inexpensive, not highly nutritious food options due to student loans, lack of a job. The lack of college student’s knowledge on nutrition, how to take care of themselves physically, and energy that some college students receive is concerning. There was a study done at the University of Hawaii resulting in the discovery of 21% of college students being food insecure and 24% of college students were at risk. This study shows how prevalent this issue is today. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/public-health-nutrition/article/food-insecurity-prevalence-among-college-students-at-the-university-of-hawaii-at-mnoa/21D2F99685FB0C06061003AB6B9DEE62
Many universities have implemented programs to help lessen issues in their student population. For example, I go to Iowa State University and they have their own food pantry called “SHOP.” This food pantry is run by students for students. Any student can pick up food or donate food with no questions asked. This pantry helps students put their minds at ease and feel less insecure about groceries while also raising awareness of food insecurity on campus. Having this opportunity for students helps them carry out their daily activities without having to worry whether or not they will be eating dinner that night.
Food insecurity is still a significant issue with low income families as well. Previously, it was stereotyped that food insecure populations were all underweight individuals, think of the TV commercials showing starving children in Africa. However, studies have shown that there is a positive correlation with obesity and food insecurity. A possible explanation for this could be overeating when food is accessible due to the unknown nature of the next time they will receive food. In addition, obesity is also associated with the type of food that is either affordable or accessible to those who are food insecure. Those food options are usually inexpensive and empty calories. Meaning, food insecure individuals consume high calorie, low nutrient dense food leaving these individuals perpetually hungry because they do not have access to the right type of food necessary to meet their bodies nutritional needs.
Food security is so important when it comes to taking care of yourself and having a healthy overall well being. Awareness in communities, no matter the age, wealth status, or population needs to be in abundance. If you think you are food insecure, look to a food pantry in your community. If you have some time or money to spare, spend some time volunteering at a food pantry or donate a few items you do not need. One out of every eight households in America and one out of every nine households in Iowa are food insecure. It is all of the little things that can put an end to food insecurity.
Lists of places in Iowa that individuals can reach out to for help.