Public Policies Targeting Food Insecurity
Based on substantial evidence of the adverse impact of food insecurity on health and the emerging data regarding the healthcare costs resulting from food insecurity, policymakers should sustain and strengthen their support for critical food safety net programs that protect food insecure and other vulnerable individuals across the life course.
The current U.S. food safety net provides the inputs (i.e. food) critical for individuals in need to be productive members of society. Policymakers should focus on improving existing programs that provide essential support to food insecure and other vulnerable communities, including SNAP, WIC, the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, Summer Food Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), and adult feeding programs. Improvements to the operations and accessibility of these programs is feasible and urgent in the short term. Improving the adequacy and quality (e.g. nutritional value) of foods provided through the food safety net should be a priority in program development and implementation.
Maladaptive behaviors resulting from food insecurity—including poor food choices—are a rational economic response to an inadequate food budget and a food system that does not provide adequate access to cheap, healthy foods. Policies should be put into place that make food budgets more adequate and can steer underserved populations toward healthier choices and address food safety issues. Policymakers should also pursue strategies to address related socio-economic challenges in order to improve food security, and, in turn, health outcomes.