Tampa is my new hometown. It is a city which belongs to the greater Tampa Bay Area, home to roughly 4.5 million people. I am shocked to find out that 700 000 people in this area are food insecure.
One in four children and one in six adults have trouble putting food on the table or having adequate access to nutritious and safe food every day, according to Feeding America.
The numbers are really staggering.
Nationwide, 14 % of American households are food insecure. Food insecurity is more prevalent in Black, non-Hispanic (26.1%), Hispanic (22.4%) and single-parent led households.
In Tampa Bay area hunger is a widespread problem affecting neighborhoods unevenly. In neighborhoods such as ours, Seminole Heights, meals are missed more frequently than in the rest of the bay area.
Hunger is tricky because it usually doesn’t look like we think it does. It can manifest in different ways, such as children being unable to concentrate in schools or their cognitive skills not developing as they should.
The reasons for food insecurity are multiple and well known. Most commonly being food insecure is an issue of affordability and accessibility.
Households that are food insecure do not have the money to put meals on the table, in other words they are often low-income families.
Not having access is also a reality in many neighborhoods. Food deserts (areas where within a mile’s radius from one’s home there is no access to a store with fresh produce) are in fact very common here in Tampa. If you don’t own a car, your closest grocery store might be a 7/11.
A hungry person might receive enough calories, hence he or she is not looking hungry, but she might be lacking vital nutrients. This is hidden hunger, and it is becoming a big problem.
A child’s first 1000 days in life are often said to be the most critical ones in setting the stage for cognitive development and future aspirations. Keeping that in mind the situation in Tampa Bay Area is alarming.
Working in the field of food and nutrition is to me so fulfilling simply because getting answers and solutions to these problems can have a lasting impact for better.
Some further questions on my mind after reading on this topic:
- Are the differences in food insecurity rates among different ethnic groups? What about immigrants and natives? Why? What about females and males?
- In food insecure areas, what are school results like? What percentage of children from these areas will end up receiving higher education? Are there long-term national studies done on children growing up in these neighborhoods/households?
- What is the correct measurement for food insecurity? Sometimes food insecurity is expressed by household, sometimes per person. Which unit is used and why?
- What national policies are in place for tackling food insecurity and are they effective? A lot of volunteer hours are put in for assisting the hungry. Is this enough? Behind volunteerism, what policies are in place that enable such a disparity in a developed nation?