Food Insecurity Affects us All
By Brandon Carroll, MPH Student
Have you ever skipped a meal because you couldn’t afford to eat?
Or maybe you’ve had to choose between paying for groceries and rent or medical bills. Unfortunately, these decisions are a reality for many people across the United States, and it is no different for residents of Mecklenburg County. Food insecurity is a complex public health issue that not only affects the health of individuals but stems from social and economic problems throughout communities. Food insecurity means people cannot access food to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. People can be food insecure if they have difficulties accessing any food because of factors such as high costs or no nearby grocery stores, or food that is available is unhealthy and not suitable to eat consistently for a long time.
Food insecurity can cause many health issues, both physical and mental. A lack of access to healthy and affordable food can lead to malnutrition, which can cause various health problems, including weakened immune systems, stunted growth and development, and an increased risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Additionally, food insecurity can contribute to mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and stress, as people struggle not knowing where their next meal will come from. Overall, food insecurity can significantly impact the health and well-being of individuals and communities.
Many residents in Mecklenburg County struggle to make ends meet. About 15% of households in Mecklenburg County struggle with food insecurity. One of the main factors contributing to food insecurity in Mecklenburg County is poverty and the increased cost of living. The poverty rate for the county is 9.9% compared to 13.4% of people living below the poverty line in North Carolina and 12.8% nationally. Roughly 1 out of 10 people in Mecklenburg County are struggling as housing, utilities, and gas prices rise. Lack of transportation often means that people find themselves in food deserts. Grocery stores are not always close by, accessible, or affordable. As a result, fast food and convenience stores selling less healthy options have become the primary food source for many in Mecklenburg County.