UConn Medical Humanitarian Society and ALD NHS team up to discuss food insecurity

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UConn Medical Humanitarian Society and ALD NHS team up to discuss food insecurity  

Believe it or not, food insecurity is everywhere. It could be affecting your friends, your neighbors and your classmates without you even knowing it. The stigma surrounding food insecurity, and the lack of conversation about it, are all reasons people frequently hesitate to share their struggles surrounding nutrition. The UConn Medical Humanitarian Society and ALD National Honors Society virtually joined forces Tuesday night to create a discussion surrounding this topic.  

Food insecurity, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, is defined as households “uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food to meet the needs of all their members because they had insufficient money, or other resources for food.” Other resources of food can be pantries, soup kitchens or food stamps.  

It’s important to recognize that for many people, food insecurity is a relatively new topic. If one has not experienced it themselves, it’s not often a discussion at all. Seventh-semester physiology and neurobiology major, and co-host of the event, Betsy Philips even said herself she is still actively researching the topic.  

“This is a learning process, for me and for many of you,” Philips said. “I’m just a student who is really interested in this topic. I might not know all the answers, but I’ll try my best to answer every one you have along the way.”  

In Philips’ presentation, she discussed some of the many factors that contribute to food insecurity. The drastic price difference between fresh produce and non-perishables is at the top of the list.  

“Nutritious foods and organic foods are typically more expensive than processed foods,” Philips said. “One in eight Americans still lived below the poverty line in 2018, so being able to afford produce and whole grains isn’t actually possible for a vast majority of people.”  

However, it isn’t only those below the poverty line who are food insecure. Working class families experienced food insecurity because of a multitude of monthly expenses. Oftentimes, one will have to choose between paying the healthcare bill or stocking up on groceries.  

“One in eight Americans still lived below the poverty line in 2018, so being able to afford produce and whole grains isn’t actually possible for a vast majority of people.”  

This discussion emphasized it’s part of the public’s duty to combat food insecurity and the stigma surrounding it. Simple tasks such as minimizing food waste, donating your food, supporting sustainable food and even picking the ugly fruit from your supermarket are ways to reduce food insecurity. Afterall, just because it isn’t the prettiest apple in the bunch doesn’t mean it isn’t the tastiest.  

Not only does food insecurity affect someone physically, but also mentally. More often than not, individuals are embarrassed or ashamed to be going to the food pantry or using SNAPS: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Ultimately, being food insecure can happen to anyone.  

“All it takes sometimes is a pandemic to launch you into food insecurity,” co-host, and seventh-semester physiology and neurobiology major, Wesia Malik said  

SNAPS is a program that aids those who are considered “at risk” — typically elders and disabled individuals. It’s essentially a sum of money, based on one’s income, that is given to the family for a specific month’s grocery bill. However, food insecurity does not only affect these two populations. In fact, children are one of the most at risk for hunger. According to the presentation, 85% of households admit to buying pre-packaged food because it lasts longer and 18% of Latin children are going hungry. Furthermore, single women with children are placed at higher risk as well. 

While food insecurity is not an issue that can be fixed in days the discussion concluded, if we all do our part we can work together to ensure that less people are worried about their monthly grocery bill or where their next meal will come from.  

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