Nutrition

What to Do When You Can’t Afford Groceries

June 30, 2021

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Food Insecurity

Written by Brittany Kiss. Reviewed by Diana Licalzi, MS, RD, CDE

Finding useful information or assistance these days is harder than ever. You have to click this link, go to that page, put in ten thousand facts about yourself, wait for an email, wait for a letter, call this number, wait on hold, then finally…. You’ll have to wait 7-10 business days for anything to work.

 

Food insecurity affects millions of Americans

All this waiting, yet food insecurity continues to threaten so many Americans. Food insecurity is when you’re not always sure when or how you’ll get your next meal. This can be because you’ve recently lost a job, you’re strapped for cash, or you had to choose between paying rent and buying groceries; the bottom line is, you can’t afford to buy healthy, hearty food. 

Here’s the thing: you’re not alone. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 1 in 4 households in America experienced food insecurity in 2019 [1]. Of this, 19.1% of those households were black families, 15.6% were Hispanic families, and 7.9% were white families [2]. That means before the pandemic, roughly 35 million Americans didn’t know if they could afford groceries. It has been estimated that the pandemic doubled this number, making 23% of all households food insecure [3].

 

NPR Graph

 

People with diabetes have it even harder 

For people with type 2 diabetes, food insecurity can be particularly tough. Not only do you have to worry about where you’ll get your food, but you also have to deal with your diabetes health. Something that is particularly effective for type 2 diabetes treatment, as we’ve seen, is a plant-based diet. But how can we eat a healthy, plant-based, diabetes-preventative diet if we can’t afford to buy groceries?

Here’s the good news: there are resources out there that can help with food insecurity. Are there crazy hoops you have to jump through to get help? We can’t make any promises there. However, we’ve highlighted a few organizations combating food security. Hopefully, they can help get you back on track with getting food onto your plate.

 

Start with your local food bank

One of the most straightforward and quickest ways to get yourself out of the food insecurity hole is checking out your local food bank. The quickest way to find it is by hitting your google search bar with “food bank near me.” Food banks are an excellent way to get a decent amount of food and find resources that will further help you out. Similarly, you can google search “food pantry near me” if you’re looking for a warm meal or a grocery pickup. Food banks and pantry guidelines vary by state, so make sure you look local. 

 

GBFB

 

Enroll in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • What is it? SNAP issues a card to families and individuals that are in need of assistance with purchasing healthy foods.
  • How do I qualify? Qualifications vary by state. To see if you qualify, go to the link below.
    • Click your state to find the contact information for your local SNAP office. 
    • Once you call the office and see if you qualify, they will send you an application. 
    • Upon receiving and qualifying, you will be issued a card to be used for grocery shopping; similar to a credit card. 
    • In order to be eligible, you have to meet certain work requirements and take a SNAP training course but it is well worth the effort.
  • Where do I go? SNAP Website

 

If you're a mother, enroll in Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
  • What is it? WIC helps to fund programs in the state that provide food, healthcare, and nutrition education for people that are pregnant, breastfeeding, postpartum, infants, and children of a low socioeconomic status that are in need of nutritional assistance. 
  • How do I qualify? WIC assistance recipients must be women, infants, or children living in the state that they apply to get assistance from. They must be at or below a specified income level determined by their state. Additionally, they have to complete a pre-screening tool for eligibility and assessment of nutrition risk.
  • Where do I go? WIC Website

 

Use WhyHunger's Food Finder search for further food assistance support
  • What is it? WhyHunger is a grassroots organization that invests in community-wide programming that attempts to eliminate food insecurity. This is done through the support of food banks as well as social-justice initiatives. They also have a Food Finder search, where you enter your zip code and they generate a list of food pantries, soup kitchens, summer meals sites, government nutrition programs, and grassroots organizations close to you.
  • Where do I go? WhyHunger Food Finder

 

If you have young kids and are in need of COVID-19 support, look into Share Our Strength: No Kid Hungry
  • What is it? Share Our Strength is a nationwide organization that not only provides grants to local businesses and organizations attempting to eliminate hunger, but also provides free meals, funding, and programs such as cooking classes to kids and their families. Go to the Share Our Strength website to find your local programs. 
  • Where do I go? Share Our Strength

At the end of the day, nobody should go hungry. Nobody should be worried about meeting their basic needs or their family’s basic needs. Hopefully, this gave you an idea of how to go about getting food on your table.

 

Resources for Food InsecurityDiabetes Across Ethnicities

 

 

References:

[1] Schanzenbach, D. W., & A. Pitts. (2020). How much has food insecurity risen? Evidence from the Census Household Pulse Survey. Institute for Policy Research Rapid Research Report. https://www.ipr.northwestern.edu/documents/reports/ipr-rapid-researchreports-pulse-hh-data-10-june-2020.pdf

[2] USDA ERS - Key Statistics & Graphics. Ers.usda.gov. https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-us/key-statistics-graphics.aspx#children. Published 2021. Accessed February 25, 2021.

[ 3] Silva, C. (2021). Food Insecurity In The U.S. By The Numbers. NPR. Retrieved 25 February 2021, from https://www.npr.org/2020/09/27/912486921/food-insecurity-in-the-u-s-by-the-numbers.


NPR Graph: https://media.npr.org/assets/img/2020/09/18/food-insecurity-by-race-2004-19_chartbuilder-1-_custom-8c980c612c5f2d02a917accb645f5726bc603852.png

GBFB Image: https://www.google.com/urlsa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fgr8bosfoodbank%2F&psig=AOvVaw3kgiG8nbz4HXL-Ojytu-9g&ust=1615573719160000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CAIQjRxqFwoTCPi8habvqO8CFQAAAAAdAAAAABAD

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