We can’t really talk about food pantries without talking about hunger and food insecurity first. Hunger refers to the physical discomfort from a lack of food by an individual.1 Food insecurity, on the other hand, refers to
“the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.”2
Food insecurity looks more at limited resources at the household level. It can range from high food security to very low food security.
Feeding America noted that nationally, 40 million adults and 12 million children ages 0 to 17 years old were food insecure in 2017. Just under 680,000 South Carolina residents were food insecure at that time. Of that number, 202,110 were children. For Anderson County, 7,830 children and 14,870 adults were food insecure.4,5
The next two graphics depict statewide food insecurity rates by county. Take a close look at the Overall vs Child graphics. The 2017 Child food insecurity graphic is much darker. The lightest shades (like Anderson on the overall) is between 4% and 14%. The forest green (like Allendale and Marion on the childhood map) is between 25% and 29%.
Dive into the maps yourself at Feeding America’s site: https://map.feedingamerica.org/county/2017/child/south-carolina.
Food insecurity can affect anybody. While income is the main factor associated with food insecurity, it is not the only one. Limited or no transportation or no supermarkets in the area can influence it. Transportation can influence people’s ability to get to stores that sell food, particularly healthy foods. Sure, people may have the ability to get to gas stations or other places that sell food that aren’t supermarkets. However, these stores generally do not sell food that would make people food secure. Disability, employment, and race are other factors linked to food insecurity.3
So why does food insecurity matter?
Food insecurity has been associated with hypertension, diabetes, obesity, anxiety and depressive symptoms, and poor oral health among adults. It is linked to birth defects as well. Among children, food insecurity is linked to anemia, poor general health, cognitive and/or behavioral health problems, more hospitalizations, asthma, as well as other health issues.6,7
Food Pantries Are Significant
Food pantries play an important role in fighting hunger as another resource for people to obtain food. When equipped with nutritionally adequate and safe foods, food pantries also fight food insecurity. An important aspect of food pantries is freedom to provide food with simple guidelines, e.g., clients don’t need to be unemployed or eligible for SNAP or WIC. If you look at the self-sufficiency standard (see our previous post), you can see that people can be full-time employed and yet earn less than what they need to be fully self-sufficient.
You can be employed and ineligible for SNAP benefits and still struggle to obtain food. When stocked with healthy foods, food pantries have been shown to improve food security among those with diabetes.8 For that to work, food pantries need to have adequate operational resources, healthy foods as well as proper identification of the overall needs of clients.
You can donate healthy food, funds or time (or all three) to any of the food pantries in Anderson. We encourage you to look at our most recent Community Resource Guide or the Online Resource Guide and reach out to help a food pantry that is in your area. No doubt they will greatly appreciate your support!