#FoodieFriday: Women and the Hunger Problem

by Elissa Blattman, Project Assistant

Food insecurity “is the household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food” – Feeding America

Globally, there are approximately 870 million people who do not get enough food to lead a healthy life.  Most of those that go hungry live in developing nations.  International organizations, such as the UN’s World Food Programme and The Hunger Project, work to end hunger on a global scale.  A main part of their work focuses on empowering women because not only are women hit the hardest by hunger, they are also the ones who most often are responsible for providing food for their families and communities.

Around 60 percent of the people living with hunger worldwide are women.  Females, especially adult women, often are the last in their families to get food.  Women also usually have less access to the resources needed to produce their own food or only have access to lower quality resources to make producing their own food a less daunting task.  It is said that providing women farmers with adequate resources could help feed up to an additional 150 million people.  The more educated and empowered a woman is, the less likely she and her family are to be hungry.  When women earn more money, the health of their children improves.

Woman serving food at a soup kitchen in Chicago c 1929 (Photo from the Library of Congress)

While most Americans see hunger as a problem that does not affect us first hand, recent studies have shown that food insecurity impacts people in every single county in the United States.  One does not have to be below the poverty line in order to be food insecure – in fact, 1 in 6 American households are food insecure, while 1 in 7 live in poverty. In the United States, food insecurity disproportionately hurts female headed households, children, and minorities the most. One quarter of black American households are food insecure and Native American households are twice as likely to be food insecure than the national average.  Many Americans have an image of a bony, starving child in their minds when they think of the hunger problem, however, that is not always an accurate picture.  Though it may not seem so on the surface, food insecurity also very closely correlates with obesity.  Nutritious, healthy foods often cost more and are less available in poorer areas.  American families who cannot afford to buy fresh, unprocessed food are becoming increasingly likely to substitute good foods with less nutrient, cheaper meals and snacks for economic reasons.

Check out Feeding America’s map of the “Meal Gap” in the United States here.

Join in on the conversation!  Post comments below, on Facebook, or Tweet us @womenshistory using the hashtag #FoodieFriday

Sources: The Hunger Project, World Food Programme, Feeding America, ABC, National Relief Charities, The Louisiana Weekly, PBS, The Voice of America, UN Women

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