The High Cost of Hunger
Examining the Impact of Food Insecurity in Bucks County
Written By: Amanda McGill
Food insecurity is defined by the United States Department of Agriculture as the lack of regular access to enough food for an active, healthy life. In Bucks County, food insecurity is a critical issue impacting 45,970 people (Feeding America), including those who are unemployed, underemployed, or living in poverty. Feeding America also found that food insecurity is higher in Bucks County than in its neighboring Montgomery and Chester counties. The importance of food security cannot be overstated, it has significant impacts on the health and well-being of individuals and families, the local economy, and the community.
One of the key reasons why food insecurity is so important in Bucks County is because of how invisible it can be in what is often considered an affluent area. According to Feeding America, 7.4% of the population in Bucks County is food insecure, and 8.7% of children in the county are food insecure. This means that many individuals and families in the area struggle to afford healthy food and may have to skip meals or rely on low-nutrient, high-calorie options.
Food insecurity has numerous negative health impacts, including an increased risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. It can also lead to mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, as well as reduced cognitive function and academic performance in children. (National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities)
In addition to the health impacts, food insecurity has several economic consequences. When individuals and families are unable to access healthy food, they may incur higher healthcare costs due to diet-related illnesses or disabilities. This can lead to decreased productivity, inability to work, and increased healthcare spending. These may result in diminished wages and earning potential, harming the local economy and the individual’s quality of life. (American Action Forum) In addition, food-insecure children are more likely to have performance issues in school, potentially harming their earning potential later in life. (Drexel University)
Furthermore, food insecurity is often related to food deserts, where communities lack regular access to healthy and affordable food options. (Michigan State University) This can perpetuate the cycle of poverty and food insecurity, making it more difficult for individuals and families to break out of the cycle. Without the ability to make healthy, nutritious choices for themselves, these individuals become reliant on low-nutrient, high-calorie foods to keep themselves from going hungry.
Finally, rising food costs have pushed food-secure individuals living on the edge down into food insecurity. In our food programs, we have observed double the number of patrons in summer 2022 compared to an average year. This coincides with a spike in inflation impacting the grocery bills of our community. Also, as extra SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits ended in March 2023, we expanded our Mobile Market programming and distributions to meet the anticipated rise in need from those on the brink of food insecurity.
It is essential that Bucks County takes action to address food insecurity now and ensure that all residents have access to healthy and affordable food. Our food program works to move our community towards total food security and food sovereignty by providing healthy food, educational tools, and community gardening. With such significant impacts on the health and well-being of individuals and families, the local economy, and the community, now is the time for Bucks County to act to ensure that our neighbors can access fresh and healthy food. By working together, we can ensure that all residents reach food security, and improve the overall quality of life in Bucks County.