What is Food Insecurity?
Food Security exists when all people within a community have at all times, physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. Food insecurity is anything short of this definition. That could mean a child in India having access only to rice for their meals, a child in Uganda with insufficient access to clean water, or at its most extreme a malnourished child experiencing famine. Please watch this Understanding Global Food Security and Nutrition video for a greater understanding of the scope of the problem and pay special attention to the cyclical nature of food insecurity at 1:47.
Mothers and their children are at the core of this cycle- please pay special attention to Resource #2 on the First 1000 Days by Roger Thurow. If we are seeking to make behavioral changes the education and action focus should be on mothers and early childcare. A child's health and future is largely determined by their nutrition in their first 1000 days (from conception to their second birthday). If we can intervene in this cycle in a child's lifetime, we may be able to intervene in the cycle for future generations to come.
Perceptions of Food Insecurity:
Chances are, when you think about Food Insecurity, it feels very impersonal to you.
Food insecurity feels like something that the world's poorest people experience; after all, the communities that are at the greatest risk for food insecurity are often in developing countries. Maybe an image like Kevin Carter's Pullitzer Prize-winning photograph comes to your mind:
While this image, and images like it, may be your global frame of reference for food insecurity, food insecurity may be more local than you think. Check out this video that evaluates food insecurity in the U.S., Map the Meal Gap, to better understand some food insecurity data that may be a hit closer to home.
Food insecurity is a common phenomenon, occuring in every community from those furthest away from you to those in your own neighborhood at home. But if it is so common, what can we do to combat the problem?
Commonalities Between Communities in Crisis:
In any community experiencing food insecurity, there are areas of overlap that are present regardless of culture. For one thing, the cyclical nature of food insecurity creates a generational problem passed from a mother to her children, to their children, and so on. This cycle is mutlifactorial and addressing the cycle through policy requires an understanding of how the local community is impacted on all levels. This cycle boils down to two things: access and affordability.
Things to consider:
- Socioeconomic status: can you afford to eat a nutritious and balanced diet?
- Local resources: Do the options exist that allow you to cultivate the ingredients for a nutritious and balanced diet?
- Health literacy: Do you know how to create a nutritious and balanced diet?
The Ultimate Barrier: The Health Behavior Gap
Presently, interventions exist that seek to decrease nurtient deficient communities through education. The goal is to increase health literacy in the community, or increase the ability of community members to access, understand, and apply health information. Check out this link to Community Health and Nutrition in America for more information on education efforts and interventions in the US. While these educational interventions have good intentions, they often result in something called the health behavior gap. This gap is the difference between having the knowlege that a health behavior (eating a balanced diet is good for your health) is good for you and taking the action to implement that health behavior in daily life. There are many barriers that widen the health behavior gap that can be understood through the Theory of Planned Behavior, outlined below.
If this model isn't for you, here is the main point: there are barriers that widen the gap between having the education to increase food security and being able to take the action to apply this education in your day to day life. Here is one video, Three Myths of Behavior Change, about how to motivate behavior change. But how can we reinforce this motivation through policy?
In terms of health policy, it might be wise to evaluate and draft an approach that helps to minimize the barriers that widen the health behavior gap as it relates to food security. How can we turn health education into health action through policy?
Welcome to your lesson on Food Insecurity and the Health Behavior Gap! The goal of this lesson is to prepare our teammates from International Affairs and Communications with an overview of food insecurity as it relates to community health education and the health behavior gap. This lesson will help establish some foundational knowlege on these topics along with some interventions that are in place today that actually work. It is our hope that these materials will help the other groups create a model for food insecurity policy and a means to market the policy to the public.
For the International Affairs team: how can we use policy to reduce the barriers that widen the health behavior gap?
For the Communications team: how can we market the policy to communities in need in a way that motivates behavior change?
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact our group leader at EllerJ@go.stockton.edu!