When the pandemic began in 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture extended free meals to school-age children all year long, including the summer months. The program will no longer be available at the end of this school year and many food insecure families are now facing a summer without school food assistance programs.
The situation is made even more dire as inflation and the cost-of-living soars, leaving millions of individuals and families in critical need of year-round nutritional assistance.
Food insecurity is not only detrimental to individual health, development and well-being, but is crippling the progress of communities across our state and society. More than 3.1 million Floridians struggle to afford nutritious food, and about one in five children or more than 900,000 in the state lack proper nutrition, according to a study by the Feeding America network.
Vast racial and ethnic disparities are also rampant. The prevalence of food insecurity among Black and Hispanic households is more than two times greater than non-Hispanic white households.
Prior to the pandemic, two out of three people served by Feeding America’s network had to choose between food and utilities; more than half had the choice of food or housing. Today, because of inflation, income and SNAP payments do not go nearly as far. Supply chain issues and energy cost hikes have compounded the issue and it’s also become harder for even food banks to purchase and distribute food at the rate and cost they once did.
Tackling the issue of food insecurity in our communities is not only the moral and ethical thing to do. It also addresses the economic and social impact it has on our communities and our state today and for the future.
Adults who go hungry are less productive and have more chronic conditions such as diabetes, depression and high blood pressure. Research has also found food insecurity associated to some birth defects as well as childhood cognitive problems, asthma, aggression, anxiety and even suicide ideation.
Here in Florida, more than $4.2 billion in health care costs are associated with food insecurity each year, according to a CDC study.
What are we doing to help combat this escalating…