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Introduction
 

Problem

What does Food Insecurity look like in Los Angeles?

Currently, 1 in 5 Angelinos are food insecure. This equates to roughly 1 million Los Angeles County residents who do not know where their next meal will come from - yet California produces half the nation's fruits and vegetables

 

Food Insecurity looks different in different communities. There is no one stereotypical image of food insecurity. So why do we assume there is? 

 

Explore the links below to learn more about the impact of this problem on various populations:

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Additional Factors associated with Food Insecurity
  • Education Level: Between 2015-2019, households headed by an adult without a high school education had nearly a six times higher rate of food insecurity (24.8%) than households headed by college graduates (4.4%). 

  • Income: Low-income women and Latinos remained the most food insecure populations during the height of COVID-19. One in four food-insecure households received CalFresh benefits, and more than a third of these CalFresh recipients live in Food Desserts. 

    • The majority of adults who experienced food insecurity from April to July 2020 were female (57%), 18-40 years old (59%), Latino (55%), and low-income (82%) – defined as living at less than 300% FPL (federal poverty level).

  • Accessibility: One in three experiencing food insecurity are unable to access food because of lack of transportation.

 

Food Security is a contributing factor in the success of College Students

Close to 40% of college students California is facing food insecurity, just above the national average of 36%. Depending on the college student’s race and ethnicity, the number changes dramatically. Food insecurity at four year institutions predominately affects students of color: 47% of Black students and 42% of Hispanic students are food insecure compared to 30% of white students.

 

College students who experience food insecurity are more likely to have chronic stress and unhealthy eating habits. Which in turn leads to performing worse in school when compared to their food secure counter parts. This creates a cycle of stress and anxiety related to food insecurity, which then continually alters schooling performance and curates health consequences.

 

COVID-19

COVID-19 has had a global effect on about everything including Food Insecurity. Caused by intersectional (link to glossary) issues compounded by the response(s) to the pandemic.

  • Food insecure individuals were twice as likely to be infected with COVID-19 between April and July 2020. 

  • In 2020, Black and Hispanic households experienced higher rates of food insecurity than any other household.

  • Across the US 21.7% of Black households and 17.2% of Hispanic households were food insecure during 2020 compared to 7.1% of white households.

 

Food insecurity is connected to financial insecurity and health consequences.

 

The health consequences of being Food Insecure

Low socioeconomic communities, historically and currently, are flooded with Quick Stops, gas stations, 7-11’s, fast food restaurants, and some mom-and-pop grocery stores--all offering the same options lacking fresh or unpackaged foods. And even if there are healthy foods, community members may not have the financial means to buy those options from alternative establishments. The food that is most accessible in these communities is high in sodium and preservatives, which can lead to health challenges on top of the health consequences that come with being food insecure.

 

Globally, there is a trend of food insecurity's relation to higher levels of depression, anxiety, and stress. Food insecure children are twice as likely to be in poor health, which includes suffering from common illnesses such as stomachaches, headaches, and cold. And some studies suggest, prolonged food insecurity results in obesity. Food insecurity is connected to the delayed motor and social skills in children through iron-deficiency. The stress of food insecurity on young children alters critical brain development that is visible later in life.

 

These staggering health consequences of food insecurity are not temporary but long term. Those who are severely food insecure have a higher chance of dying from infectious-parasitic disease, unintentional injuries and suicide than those who do not experience food insecurity. Not shockingly, Adults who are food insecure die an average of 9 years earlier than their food-secure counterparts.

 

The Economic consequences of Being Food Insecure

Food insecurity is related to lower education, less pay, and worsening health consequences. A common misconception is that those who are food insecure do not work but on the contrary, 70% of the federal aid beneficiaries work full time. Lack of access, transportation, health coverage, and overall cost of living are the main economic contributors to food insecurity.

 

Learn more about the economic consequences of Food Insecurity here.

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Racial Justice and Food Insecurity

And to perpetuate the issue even further, racial income gaps between Black and Hispanic households compared to their white counterparts contributes to the cycle of intergenerational poverty and in turn, food insecurity. Food insecurity is often inherited because of oppression and systematic racism. Zoning codes, lending practices, redlining and other discriminatory policies rooted in white supremacy have contributed to food insecurity in low-income neighbors and minorities neighborhoods. 

  • Latinos experienced the highest prevalence of food insecurity (40%) from April to December 2020, followed by African Americans (39%), Asians (28%), and Whites (21%)

 

Below you'll find statistics from 2020 survey by Los Angeles Food Policy Council about how there are more liquor stores than full-service grocery stores in South LA:

Cause

Pandemic

In addition to the morbidity and mortality caused by the novel coronavirus, the COVID-19 pandemic sent the nation into a recession, which resulted in millions of Americans facing unemployment. Los Angeles County was hit particularly hard, with the unemployment rate increasing to 19.4% in June 2020, compared to 14.9% in California and 11.1% nationally. The loss of jobs and associated income contributed to increased levels of food insecurity and deepened existing racial and economic inequities caused by a reduced access to healthy food.

 

Agriculture and the distribution of resources (Transportation)

 One in three census tracts in the Antelope Valley and South L.A. faces the double burden of being food deserts and food assistance deserts. This problem is worsened by poor public transportation and the distribution of resources. On average, one in three individuals in Los Angeles County experiencing food insecurity have difficulty getting food because of lack of transportation or inconvenient store hours. This is exacerbated by lack of food delivery options in areas that are food insecure. Half of the people who were food insecure could not get groceries delivered. And this stark comparison of food distribution and transportation is worsened when the pandemic closed a high number of food outlets that were in low-income neighborhoods.

 

Income Inequality and Inflation

The growing economy has, and inflation rates have worsened the economic stability of the younger generation. When household income and employment status were adjusted, individuals ages 18 to 50 years had significantly greater odds of experiencing food insecurity, compared to those ages 65 years and older from April 2020 to July 2020. Additionally, lack of family resources and systematic oppression have led to half, or 50.3%, of adults who experienced food insecurity between April to July 2020 having children in their households and 35.6% were single parents.

 

Learn more about Inflation and how it affects income barracks differently HERE.

 

How are policies perpetuating food insecurity?

Repeatedly, we see corporations, big businesses and policymakers go against the people and keep the disenfranchised, disenfranchised.

 

Walmart and McDonald’s employers are the largest beneficiaries of federal aid programs like Medicaid and Food Stamps. This is brought on by poor minimum wages, lack of unionization, redlining and little to no employee benefits like health care or 401k. Amazon Kroger and Dollar General were also on the list of top employers with a notable number of employees on federal aid programs.

 

Learn more about corporations lobbying against minimum wage hikes HERE.

 

With the costs of both housing and transportation in Los Angeles County, many people who work– even families with two incomes – often cannot make ends meet or put enough healthy food on the table. And the global pandemic and related economic fallout has created large numbers of people in our community who are brand new to food insecurity, and never imagined they would need food assistance. As rent continues to skyrocket, the living cost increases while the pay cheques stay the same.

California Median Rent for 2br
Too Close to Home

1 in 3 Los Angeles County households experienced food insecurity — disruptions in eating because of a lack of money or resources — during April to December 2020. During the first half of 2021, the ratio fell to more than 1 in 10 Los Angeles County households USC. As the number decreases, so does the attention towards the problem but that does not mean the issue area is solved it just means less funding and support is provided to those still experiencing food insecurity.

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Resources

Interested in learning more? Check out these resources.

Read

Our systems and the connection to poverty

Learn about intergeneration poverty here.

 

Health and Education

Learn more about education and food insecurity here.

Learn more about our food assistance programs here.

Resource Pages

Watch
Food Inc
Hunger In America
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Listen
GastroPod
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Glossary
  • Food System: The food system is a complex network that is deeply connected to
    health, society, and the environment.

  • Food Security: A situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.

  • Food Insecurity: Individuals who are uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food to meet the needs of all themselves or members of their household because they had insufficient money or other resources for food.

    • Those who are food insecure, are usure where their next meal will come from.

  • Hungry: Hunger refers to a personal, physical sensation of discomfort.

    • If you are hungry you can walk to the fridge.

Food Swamp and Food Desert are the same coin, different sides.

  • Food Mirage: The phenomenon where there are places to buy food but they are too expensive for the neighborhood.

  • Food Swamp: Areas with an abundance of unhealthy food.

  • Food Desert: Areas with little to no access to healthy or unhealthy food sources.

  • Food Apartheid: It implies systems of racial oppression that contribute to Hunger, Food Insecurity, and Food Deserts

  • A Food Desert is bound to a single geographic area, whereas Food Apartheid captures the larger scope of the issue

You can learn more here and read the U.S. Department of Agriculture definitions here.

 

Take Action

ORGANIZE

Support living wage positions so food insecurity can be less of an issue. Lack of money is an issue that contributes to food scarcity

  • Support donations to local agencies

    • How to begin a food bank collection to donate

  • Lobby your local grocery store to donate unused, “unappealing,” unsellable food to local food banks

  • Support local farmers markets and begin one of your own

    • Map finding local farmers markets

    • How to create one of your own​​

 

PROMOTE, SHIFT, CHANGE

Promote health equity by recognizing the relationship between food equity and racial equity

  • Shift the focus of government, health care, and policymakers from “food security” to “nutrition security,” emphasizing food quality as well as access

  • Engage the health care sector to expand food insecurity screening and link patients to nutrition assistance, including produce prescription programs and food distribution efforts throughout Los Angeles County

 

DONATE TO YOUR LOCAL FOOD BANK

LA County Food Bank

  • Invest in food recovery systems throughout Los Angeles County to increase food resources and assure food equity for all

    • Food bank

    • Local community gardens

    • Food recovery efforts