Food insecurity is a common problem that is not often talked about. It occurs across the nation and around the world. It is possible that even if you haven’t personally faced food insecurity, you know someone who has. Unfortunately, teens are at increased risk of food insecurity. This can happen for a variety of reasons, such as a growing teen’s increased nutritional needs. It’s also important to understand that some people are more affected by food insecurity than others for reasons outside of their control including but not limited to racism and discrimination.
What is food insecurity?
Food insecurity is defined as a disruption in normal eating due to a lack of resources. Some people think that to experience food insecurity, a person must go hungry for long periods, but this isn’t true. Hunger isn’t necessarily an outcome of food insecurity but it can be part of someone’s experience with lack of access to food. Actually, food insecurity can happen at different levels. What people most often think of is very low food security, which is when you are forced to eat less, and eating patterns are changed (e.g., meals are skipped) due to not being able to afford enough food. However, it is still considered food insecurity when you don’t necessarily have less food to eat but there is less of a variety of food available, or the food available is of lower quality due to not being able to afford more variety or higher quality.
What can I do if I am not experiencing food insecurity?
It’s important to know that it is not only ok to talk to someone if you have inconsistent access to healthy food or an inability to access enough food, it’s also really important to your health and wellbeing. Having access to food will improve your mental health and can help you concentrate better at school. Sometimes teenagers are not honest about food insecurity because they are concerned about being judged or having people judge their parents. Food insecurity is not something to be embarrassed about; there are resources available but they can only help if a person reaches out for access to them.
Whom can I talk to and what can I say to someone if I am experiencing food insecurity?
If you don’t consistently have access to healthy food in your home, you can tell a teacher, guidance counselor, faith-based leader, or healthcare provider including a doctor, nurse, dietitian, therapist, social worker, or resource specialist. Some things you might tell them or ask include:
- Sometimes there isn’t enough food in the house.
- Sometimes I don’t have enough to eat.
- Sometimes we run out of money to buy food.
- Sometimes we don’t have enough money to get healthy food.
- Am I able to get free meals at school?
- Is there some place I can get free meals during the summer?
- Are there food pantries nearby?
- Do I qualify for any meal services in the area?
I am experiencing food insecurity, who can help?
There are food assistance programs available, as well as websites to use to find food resources available near you.
- Food Bank Directory
- Food Assistance Programs
- No Kid Hungry
- USDA Hotline: 1-866-348-6479
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
- National School Lunch Program (NSLP)
- School Breakfast Program (SBP)
- Summer Meals for Kids
How can I make my food last longer?
Buying in bulk when possible and shopping sales can help to cut costs. In addition, there are certain types of foods that tend to be less expensive, have a more stable shelf life, and are high in nutrients! A more stable shelf life can help you stretch your food budget, too! These foods include:
- Nuts and nut butters
- Dried and canned beans
- Canned seafood, e.g., tuna
- Whole grains, such as oats and brown rice in bulk
- Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables
- Evaporated milk
Do you have any recipes that are cheap, easy, and health?
Yes, check out our guide on Quick, Easy, Cheap, and Healthy Recipes. Remember, reaching out for help in order to feed yourself nutritious foods is important for your physical and mental wellbeing.