Identifying the precursors of food insecurity to better understand occupational needs: A pilot study
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Current economic conditions have left families unable to put food on the table. Too often parents and children do not know where their next meal will come from. Food security is a basic human right as declared by the World Health Organization1, 2. Every individual has a right to access adequate and quality food to ensure physical and mental wellbeing. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food security as having access to adequate nutrition to live an active and healthy lifestyle3, 4. Food insecurity, then, is the ambiguity of having food to sustain oneself4; an inability to secure nourishment due to insufficient resources3, 5; a “nonsustainable food system” that interrupts health, well-being, and quality of life2. It is important to note that food insecurity is involuntary2. Self-sufficiency is bounded when a family is experiencing food insecurity. According to Bolz and Hernandez5, 44.7% of families have to choose between purchasing food and paying the utility bill. Thirty-five percent decide between purchasing food and paying the rent. Twenty-nine percent choose between purchasing food and paying for medical care5, 6. These unmerited choices lead to reduced health and increased stress. Hidden hunger is a term used to describe a deficiency of necessary nutrients2. Due to insufficient funds, families must rely on cheaper, higher calorie, nutrientdeficient foods, rather than fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy products2, 4, 5. As a food insecurity coping strategy, families try to “maximize caloric intake for each dollar spent, which leads to over consumption of calories and less healthy diet”5. This involuntary unhealthy diet has become a major public health concern. Families experiencing food insecurity have a severe risk of experiencing nutrition-related diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension, as well as psychosocial concerns. Health care professionals need to address food insecurity in order to build a foundation for families to live sustainable, balanced, healthy lifestyles.