By: Analeah Rosen

While March is National Nutrition Month, food insecurity impacts nearly 42.2 million Americans every day. Contrary to popular belief, food insecurity has nothing to do with food shortages – as 30-40% of food produced in the United States winds up in landfills – rather, it is direct result of a lack of access to food.

Food insecurity is experienced by a wide variety of people. For example, an elderly person with limited mobility who relies on food supplies that are readily convenient might not have access to fresh produce or meat. A college student relying on scholarships and meal plans might reduce the amount of meals consumed in order to stretch her budget. For adults receiving food aid, 60% are working and 90% were employed the year prior to receiving assistance.

Hunger isn’t the only symptom of food insecurity. Distress, low-attention span, anxiety, fatigue, depression and obesity can also occur when a person is experiencing food insecurity. Common coping mechanisms for individuals experiencing food insecurity include reducing the size of meals, not being able to afford a balanced meal, purchasing less nutritious food, or going without eating for one or several meals. And an equally common, though not as apparent, result of food insecurity is trading off purchasing food in order to pay for medical bills or housing costs.

The good news is that awareness about food insecurity is at an all-time high. Many organizations, city planners and social service networks are making bold moves to provide all people with access to nutritional meals. Recent winners of an urban innovation contest proposed turning post offices into food banks – providing central access to food in a familiar setting. In South Florida, where roughly 23% of children face food insecurity (reflecting the increase in food prices and cost of living that have plagued the region), there are numerous food banks and urban farm initiatives. The JCS proudly houses the region’s only kosher food bank, for those whose dietary restrictions in addition to economic and social factors make it harder to receive assistance.

While awareness of food insecurity has led to an increase in direct services and fundraising, it also shows that poverty, the root cause of food insecurity, still looms large and must be addressed in order to fully insure no one has to go hungry.

To meet the growing demand for food, JCS maintains meal sites at five dining facilities throughout Miami, the Kosher Food Bank provides food to adults, families and Holocaust survivors as well as a meal delivery service for homebound seniors.

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