Hunger affects people from all walks of life; hunger does not discriminate according to age, race, ethnicity, or geographical location. The United States is currently seeing a historically high rate of food insecurity with 1 in 8 people struggling with hunger, according to Feeding America. While consumer prices have been on the rise, many people are not receiving a paycheck to compensate for these price increases. With a larger portion of income going to health care costs, many individuals and families are struggling to stretch their paychecks to consistently put food on the table for every meal.
The Causes and Effects of Food Insecurity:
- Individuals choose fatty, processed, and unhealthy foods because they are less expensive than fresh and nutritious meals.
- As health care bills build up, people sacrifice their food budgets.
- When forced to choose between eating expired food (which poses health hazards) and eating nothing, eating expired food is the likely choice.
- Housing is a major expense. When rent, mortgage, or other utility bills are due, food budgets suffer.
- When humans do not consume all the nutrients and calories they need, they are more susceptible to getting sick, irritable, exhausted, and depressed.
Helpful Resources and Programs to Fight Hunger:
There are several resources that can help close the gap when experiencing food insecurity:
- Feeding America
- Programs for Families and Senior Citizens
- Tips and Tricks for Saving at the Grocery Store
Below are more details on the above options. While eligibility for programs differs from person to person, it is important to be aware of and consider your options.
What Is SNAP?
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously referred to as the Food Stamps Program, is the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net. SNAP’s mission is to prevent working, low-income families from hunger by providing nutritional assistance and SNAP benefits to be used for the groceries individuals need monthly. Almost 40 million, or 1 in 7 Americans, are helped by SNAP. During difficult times, individuals and families can apply for SNAP benefits to purchase food from grocery stores, convenience and specialty stores, Walmart and Target (food only), and even local farmers’ markets.
What Is Feeding America?
The mission of Feeding America is to provide nutritious food to improve people’s health and well-being, providing food to anyone who needs it, regardless of circumstance. Feeding America’s services are free and confidential and are available in over 200 Feeding America Food Banks throughout the United States, serving 46 million people each year. These food banks supply fresh produce and information on making healthy food choices, recognizing the importance of a balanced diet for success in life. When visiting a Feeding America Food Bank, you will find filling, healthy, and safe options. Each food bank follows a stringent set of procedures and requirements that meet practices the food industry and food retailers must follow.
What Programs Are Available for Families and Senior Citizens?
If you need assistance feeding your children, the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, and Summer Food Service Program are federally mandated programs that work to provide low-income children low-cost or free nutritious meals, whether it’s during the school year or summer.
If you are a low-income, pregnant woman and/or have children up to age five, you may qualify for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Also a federally mandated program, WIC allows states to provide supplemental foods and nutrition education for qualifying women and children.
If you are low-income and above the age of 60, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) may benefit you. CSFP is a federally mandated program that serves low-income seniors with incomes less than 130% of the Federal Poverty line, distributing food to those who qualify.
Tips and Tricks for Saving at the Grocery Store:
For individuals who do not qualify for federal programs, would prefer to not visit a Feeding America Food Bank, or just want additional options for getting and affording food, there are tips for saving money when grocery shopping.
- Buy frozen fruit and boxed dry goods: These options include bulk rice, frozen fruits and vegetables, and frozen seafood, which tend to be more affordable than other options at the supermarket, while being just as tasty.
- Focus on sale items: Sales usually take place on an 8-12-week rotation. When you see a non-perishable item on sale, stock up to have enough for around 10 weeks and you’ll be set until the next sale for that item.
- Buy generic brands: Name-brand products tend to be more expensive than generic, despite typically being the same product. (Compare the ingredients of generic brands with name-brands to ensure they are the same.)
- Eat with the seasons: When food is out of season (usually fruits and vegetables), the prices are hiked up. By eating with the seasons and focusing on purchasing in-season fruits and vegetables, you can save 30-50%.
- Apply coupons: There are many resources for finding coupons that can be applied to your groceries. Consider looking in newspapers, magazines, GroceryCouponCart.com, and Coupons.com to start your search. Bonus: apply coupons to items on sale.
Interested in Exploring Other Options? Below are some additional resources:
- BenefitsCheckUp is a free online service that shows benefits closest to you. Just choose Food & Nutrition.
- USDA provides additional food distribution programs, child nutrition programs, and more.
- The Salvation Army has many soup kitchens across the country, offering hot, nutritious meals, free groceries from pantries, applications for food stamp benefits, and other hunger prevention programs.
- Feeding America isn’t just a source for food banks, they have several other hunger relief and food assistance programs.