Physicians, healthcare providers, and a growing number of other professionals have come to recognize hunger as a health issue. This is because many factors outside of genetics or medical care contribute to a person’s well-being–including social, economic, physical, or other conditions related to our surrounding environments.

Poverty, for example, involves a person’s economic status. That means it directly affects what a person spends their money on. Fresh veggies for the week, or a utility bill? Snacks for the kids, or a car payment?

Between low-paying jobs and caring for kids, many turn to cheap grab-and-go meals that are full of saturated fats, sodium, and sugar. But these “convenience” foods–cheeseburger dinners, gas station burritos, breakfast sandwiches from fast food chains–are hardly convenient in the long run.

A multitude of studies have shown that regular consumption of these foods may lead to chronic diseases like type II diabetes, heart disease, certain types of cancer, and even arthritis. Obesity may also arise, often happening when food deprivation is followed by overeating when food is finally available.

Here’s an excerpt from a Food Research & Action Center publication that goes into further detail:

“Food-insecure and low-income people can be especially vulnerable to poor nutrition and obesity, due to additional risk factors associated with inadequate household resources as well as under-resourced communities. This might include lack of access to healthy and affordable foods; cycles of food deprivation and overeating; high levels of stress, anxiety, and depression; fewer opportunities for physical activity; greater exposure to marketing of obesity-promoting products; and limited access to health care. In addition to these unique challenges, those who are food insecure or low income are subject to the same and often challenging cultural changes (e.g., more sedentary lifestyles, increased portion sizes) as other Americans in trying to adopt and maintain healthful behaviors.” (Source: Food Research & Action Center, December 2017)

Unfortunately, these poor health outcomes pose challenges for families in the long run. Now in addition to all existing expenses, they must pay for medical treatments, emergency room visits, and prescriptions. I think we all can relate to how difficult that can be. And even beyond the personal consequences for individuals and families, there are costly implications for our economy and healthcare system as a whole.

Fortunately, that is why Manna exists: to provide food to those in need. We provide support when families need it most and we encourage our clients to utilize government food programs like SNAP, WIC, and Double Up Food Bucks for produce incentives at farmer’s markets. Programs such as these help reduce food insecurity, alleviate poverty, and improve community health, and we are proud to be part of these solutions.

Jessyca Stoepker | August 8, 2019