Food security is a measurement designed to determine the population’s level of access to sufficient food to have an active and healthy life. For nearly a quarter of all Latinos, the everyday reality is different, and this has a negative impact on their health and quality of life.
Yesterday, the Department of Agriculture published a report that inspects the nutritional situation of the Hispanic community according to their country of origin, immigration status, household composition and state of residence, among other categories. As an example, homes whose head of household is a Puerto Rican single mother living in a city showed the highest rates of food insecurity.
Insufficient access to food may be “low,” which reflects poorer food quality and less variety, while “high” food insecurity means that access to food is interrupted and products are available in reduced amounts. A 22.4% of Latinos are in the first category and 6.9% are in the second one, compared to the national average, which is 14% and 5.6%, respectively. Numbers among African-Americans are even worse.
This is one of those cases in which hunger, poor nutrition and poverty converge. The proof is in the high percentage of obese Latino children that are already being hard-hit by diseases such as diabetes at an early age. The cause is not hunger but consuming junk food ‒ foods with no real nutritious value ‒, a habit brought about by low incomes.
It is unfortunate to see many Latino communities lacking access to stores offering an array of affordable fruits and vegetables, which are necessary to maintain a healthy diet.
Another problem is that many eligible Latinos, close to 3 million, are not participating in the food stamps program. Simultaneously, immigration laws ban legal residents to receive benefits for more than 5 years.
The solution to food insecurity requires paying attention to different fronts, including lawmaking, opening more supermarkets in poor areas and getting people informed about potential benefits that may be available.
Good nutrition is an investment that helps individuals reach their full potential and becoming valuable to society instead of an expense.