The United States Department of Agriculture defines food security as having access to enough food for all household members, at all times, to lead an active, healthy life. Uncertainty around having or obtaining enough food to meet the needs of all members due to insufficient resources leads to food insecurity.
One in seven individuals in the Omaha metro region (Douglas, Sarpy and Pottawattamie Counties) experiences food insecurity. This local prevalence of food insecurity is reflective of the national figure: 14.7% of U.S. households were food insecure in 2009. View the USDA’s report on household food security.
During his 2008 campaign, President Obama set a goal to end childhood hunger by 2015. Strategies set forth by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) included an emphasis on improving and expanding the nation’s nutrition programs (e.g., free and reduced school lunch program), and bolstering the economy and strengthening supports for working families in order to move more out of poverty, the root cause of hunger in this country.
In alignment with these efforts, the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition seeks to better understand the factors that influence hunger in our communities, which we overlay with our nutrition and evaluation expertise in order to find potential solutions to this complex problem.
Because recent trends in food insecurity in the United States parallel population increases in obesity, we seek to identify the complex factors surrounding disparities and highlight necessary points of intervention for both further research and community action. We work with local and national partners in the exploration and ultimately explanation of food insecurity and related health disparities in our communities in order to provide or suggest potential solutions.
Institute of Medicine
Dr. Yaroch, the Center’s executive director, recently served on an Institute of Medicine committee to help develop a workshop to examine the potential relationship between food insecurity and obesity. The workshop resulted in a report titled “Hunger and Obesity: Understanding a Food Security Paradigm.” You can read the report here.
Hunger Free Heartland
The Center is a partner in the Hunger Free Heartland (HFH) initiative. The Center serves as the research arm of HFH to identify and contribute to the development of a scientific evidence base to inform community activities aimed at improving food security for households in the Omaha metro region.
The mission of HFH is to ensure that sustainable solutions are available to provide access to the nutritious foods children and their families need to live active, healthful lives. This initiative is a grassroots effort including representation from more than 50 businesses, charitable and community organizations including education, health care and social service groups and government representatives uniting behind a common purpose of providing children and their families with nutritious food. The initiative was launched in response to the growing need to alleviate child food insecurity in the Omaha metro area.
In January 2011, Center representatives presented a research brief to Hunger Free Heartland partners. In April 2011, a second brief that identifies local breakfast consumption habits was also presented.
Nebraska Food Pantry Report
In 2010, no public directory of food pantries existed in Nebraska. Following a survey of more than 130 food pantry representatives, the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition published a state directory, a map identifying food pantry locations across the state, and statistics related to client access, transportation and types of food and services available.
Few studies have comparatively looked at the role of food pantries in a rural/urban context. The purpose of this 2010 study was to collect data from organizations that provide emergency food services and present a profile to describe the charitable response to hunger across the state. This information is an important first step in gathering data that can help inform anti-hunger efforts in Nebraska.
Feeding America and Cooking Matters
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Read the article. “Poverty, Food Insecurity, and Obesity: A Conceptual Framework for Research, Practice, and Policy” in the Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition.
“Hunger and Obesity: Understanding a Food Security Paradigm.” View the report.