Hunger and food insecurity are rooted in parallel social contexts and systems that influence individuals’ ability to access adequate, nutritious food, and both the direct causes of the food insecurity and the related socio-economic factors should be addressed. Based on currently available data, the recommendations below are put forward for consideration by public and private decision makers interested in better understanding the impact of food insecurity in the U.S. today. These recommendations outline the short and long term opportunities for tackling food security and its implications for overall health, based on the unique roles and skills inherent in each sector.
FOOD INDUSTRY LEADERSHIP
The food industry—from farmers to food producers to retailers—
should more actively engage in innovating around and partnering on food security strategies, and should address food insecurity within its own organizations.
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.
As food insecurity is increasingly recognized as a health issue and contributor to disease burden, health and health-related organizations should establish protocols to identify and address food security at the clinical level, and in turn help mitigate healthcare costs.
—including those focused on hunger alleviation, health, early childhood development, education, poverty alleviation, and other relevant topics —should continue to highlight synergies between food security and health, set priorities for the public and private sectors to address, and support the effective implementation of federal food programs. Philanthropic support for these efforts is critical in the development of resilient and equitable food and healthcare systems.
FOOD SECURITY RESEARCH
Building on existing data on the relationship among food insecurity, health, and healthcare costs, further investment should be made in food security research designed to evaluate the healthcare costs associated with food insecurity as manifested in short-term illness and long term vulnerabilities to disease.
Photo credit: flickr@Jeffrey Zeldman
Photo credit: flickr@Walmart