Learn About Hunger
Hunger vs. Food Insecurity
What is hunger?
Hunger is the personal, physical sensation of discomfort from a lack of food. Hunger can also lead to a lack of concentration, irritability, and social and behavioral issues — particularly in children. Individuals who are food insecure may experience hunger.
What is food insecurity?
Food insecurity is the lack of reliable, consistent access to enough affordable, nutritious food for an active, healthy lifestyle. Hunger is related to food insecurity, but food insecurity refers to a lack of available financial resources for or access to food in a household. Food Gatherers often refers to hunger and food insecurity interchangeably but at its core, our mission focuses on alleviating food insecurity and its root causes.
Looking at the Data
Before the COVID-19 crisis began, food insecurity in the U.S. was the lowest it had been in more than 20 years. However, 35.2 million people, including 10.7 million children, were food insecure.
In early 2020, Feeding America released their annual Map the Meal Gap study, the goal of which is to improve our understanding of food insecurity at the local, state, and national levels. The findings of Map the Meal Gap were based on data from 2018. Since then, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, food insecurity has increased dramatically.
In response, Feeding America released a companion study and interactive map that illustrate the projected impact of the pandemic on local food insecurity in the year 2020. The following data is based on those projections, which were last updated in March 2021.
Hunger in Washtenaw County
Hunger food insecurity exists in every city, township, and zip code of Washtenaw County. In our community, approximately 42,450 individuals, including 6,090 children, are food insecure.
Households with children also have higher rates of food insecurity during the summer months because children are at home and replacing free- and reduced-price school meals is a drain on limited resources.
Hunger in Michigan
Due to the pandemic, Feeding America projects that 14.2% of Michiganders will face food insecurity in 2021, with child food insecurity reaching 16%.
Hunger in America
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of people are newly experiencing food insecurity, alongside those who were experiencing food insecurity before the crisis began. Feeding America projects that in 2021, 42 million individuals (including 13 million children) may face hunger because of COVID-19. Food insecurity rates are expected to remain elevated in 2021 compared to pre-pandemic levels across the United States.
Hunger, Health, and Equity
Nutritious food plays an essential role in health, and a lack of sufficient food and the right type of food can lead to devastating health outcomes. People who are food insecure are disproportionally affected by diet-sensitive chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Being food insecure often means making a tough choice between paying for food and paying for medicine and/or medical care.
Being able to access affordable, healthy food is also influenced by factors like poverty and discrimination. As a result, food insecurity is also an issue of equity and has a disproportionate impact on low-income households, Black and Hispanic families, female-headed households, and families with children.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Black and Hispanic households have had higher annual rates of food insecurity compared to the national average among all households since 1995. In 2017, 21.8% of African American households and 18% of Hispanic households reported food insecurity, while the national food insecurity rate was 11.8%.
To increase food security for everyone, it is critical that we actively incorporate equity into our responses. By examining the fundamental causes of food insecurity and health inequities, we can work to dismantle systemic racism, which is at the root of inequities in health, hunger, and economic opportunity.
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