What is Food Insecurity?
When you are food insecure, it means that you do not have reliable access to adequate nutritious food, or lack the resources to purchase it. A family is also considered food insecure when its members live in hunger, which is what you feel when you do not have enough to eat, or are in fear of starvation.
There is no single face of food insecurity. The need for food assistance varies among children, seniors, college students, people with disabilities, veterans, the working poor, people experiencing homelessness, and others.
Food insecurity is often episodic and cyclical. People may require food assistance a single time, for a few months, or on a more regular basis.
People who face food insecurity must choose between buying food and taking care of their families. Most low-income households in our service area spend close to 70% of their income on housing, with little left to pay for utilities, childcare, transportation, food, medical care, and other basic needs.
Food insecurity often goes hand in hand with housing insecurity, meaning many of the people our member agencies serve are close to or already experiencing homelessness.
Many food insecure households do not qualify for federal nutrition assistance programs. Eligibility for CalFresh, California’s food stamps (SNAP) program, is based on a nationwide standard that does not take into account the extremely high cost of living in Los Angeles County.
What is the Effect of Food Insecurity?
People who experience food insecurity can go days, weeks, months, or even years without giving their bodies enough of the foods and nutrients essential to live healthy lives. The results are far-reaching on both their mental and physical well being.
For children in particular, food insecurity has devastating effects. Hunger weakens immune systems and stunts child development, making it difficult for a child to learn and thrive.
What Can Be Done?
Food assistance sets off a positive ripple effect on the well-being of individuals and the communities in which they live.
It is possible to end food insecurity in our communities by addressing both the immediate needs of those facing hunger and the root causes of food insecurity.
Right now it is especially important to strengthen vulnerable populations’ safe and consistent access to the full range of nutrients, which improves health outcomes and provides relief from the pain of hunger and uncertainty.
With food stocking their kitchens, filling their plates, and nourishing their bodies:
Children perform better in school, escape the emotional trauma of hunger, and experience long-term health benefits
Veterans and their families experience improved wellness and achieve quicker, more lasting reentry into civilian life
Cash-strapped college students experience improved health, less isolation, and increased academic wellbeing
Senior citizens access key nutrients needed to nourish their bodies and sustain their lives
Low-income residents dedicate more of their income toward staying housed, and for medical and childcare costs or emergency expenses
People experiencing or recovering from homelessness are connected with outreach services through food assistance, and experience improved quality of life as they rebuild and seek permanent housing
In addition to food, many of our member agencies provide services that help the people they serve transcend the destructive effects of poverty and homelessness, such as employment assistance, housing placement, psychological counseling, job training, money management assistance, and parenting classes. Our food nourishes their bodies and minds as they work hard to achieve independent success.
Our member agencies serve the neighborhoods of Santa Monica, Venice, Culver City, West Los Angeles, West Hollywood, Inglewood and the LAX area, as well as the West Los Angeles VA and several college campuses.
*The Westside of Los Angeles County is home to more than 940,000 people, including over 200,000 people who struggle to either afford or access nutritious food.
With high costs of living and little money to spare, people in our service area continue to struggle to meet their basic needs:
High Costs of Housing
Renters in Los Angeles need to earn more than three times the local minimum wage to afford the County’s median monthly rent. *
20% of households in Western LA County make under $30,000 per year.
Limited Access to Groceries
Nearly 50,000 low-income residents in our service area cannot find or access food that is nutritious, fresh and unprocessed.