This month, the United States Department of Agriculture released its most recent findings about food security. Food security, or the ability of all people at all times to access enough food to support a healthy and active lifestyle, is an important component of growing and maintaining a healthy and productive population.
Unfortunately, between 2006 and 2008 a greater percentage of Floridians faced food insecurity (i.e., unable at times over the year to afford adequate food) than in the prior three-year period. Between 2003 and 2005, Florida’s average rate of food insecurity was 9.4 percent of all households, but it climbed to 12.2 percent (or 910,000 households) three years later. Almost half of those households facing food insecurity in Florida were characterized as having very low food security (i.e., reduced intake because of lack of resources). Nationally, the food insecurity rate ranged from 6.9 percent in North Dakota to 17.4 percent in Mississippi.
Although state-specific data was not reported for 2008 alone, USDA reported national data for that year. Of all households in the U.S., 14.6% were considered food insecure. Those included 10.7 percent of white non-Hispanic households, 25.7 percent of black non-Hispanic households, and 26.9 percent of Hispanic households. More than one in five (22.3 percent) of households in the U.S. with children under the age of six were food insecure.
The findings are even worse among households with incomes below 130 percent of the federal poverty level: 39 percent of all such households experienced food insecurity, including almost 45 percent with children under the age of six.
Of further interest, USDA reported that the average household expenditure for food was $43.75 per person per week. It ranged from an average of $47.50, $36.67, and $35.00 respectively for white non-Hispanic, black non-Hispanic, and Hispanic households.
In a state and country as wealthy as we are, allowing the cycle of food insecurity and hunger to perpetuate and grow is unacceptable. In particular, the disproportionate prevalence of food insecurity among minorities and the especially high occurrence in households with children under the age of six is appalling. More must be done nationally and at the state level to provide basic support and opportunities for individuals to work and earn enough money to feed their families and lead a healthy and productive lifestyle.