If Food is Medicine For All, Shouldn't All Be At The Table? The Devastating Effects of Food Insecurity within Low-Income Hispanics

A Research Brief by: Carolina Reinoso

CRLow-Income Hispanics make up more than half of the food insecure population. Food insecurity is one of the leading problems in Public Health. The Hispanic community makes up 57.7 million of the U.S. total population, and a total 8% of Latinos who are in poverty compared to all people in the U.S, with a whopping 20% in food insecurity compared to 13% of the rest of the population. Seeing this immense disparity, it is important to evaluate the barriers that confine them into food insecurity.

With the current enforcements of immigration laws and the cuts on initiatives like the Affordable Care Act which covered millions Hispanic's health, it has led to more contributing barriers to that have confined this vulnerable population into food insecurity. According to an Immigrant and Minority Health study, 211 Latinos were interviewed within their homes to assessed the barriers and results that they are experiencing while being food insecure. From the study, the majority of the participants stated that Health insurance, transportation, and money (lack of employment) were all barriers that had lead them into food insecurity.

In relation, a systematic review was conducted by the PCD which analyzed the correlated systematic barriers within food insecurity, food deserts, lack of job opportunity. Overall, household income amongst the majority of Hispanics within these areas was very low with over 60% of households being below $25,000 per year (33.3%) or at or below $19,450 per year (33.3%).

The past Healthy People 2010 initiative set a goal to reduce the prevalence of food insecurity to 6%. Currently 20% of Low-Income Hispanics are food insecure according to Feeding America, which shows that measures haven't been met and outcomes are worsening. The socio-economic barriers of job security and housing have influenced these outcomes according to the Food Security status study, as the constraints of healthier food consumption depletes when individuals have to consider foods that are healthier but way too expensive for their allocated funds. Info-Charts by Feeding America shows that 69% food insecure individuals had to choose between food and utilities, another 66% had to choose between food and medical care. These barriers lead to worse health outcomes for this vulnerable population.

A household food insecurity study of Low-Income Hispanics showed that their rising health outcomes are leading to more barriers within the economy. With an estimated 78% of Hispanics in the US are overweight or obese, Medicare/caid cost go up and disability becomes prevalent as employment goes down. The association is a concern and demonstrates how we must focus on affordability as well as accessibility to combat the health inequality.

Programs are not self-sufficient enough to eliminate and aide low-Income Hispanics out of food insecurity. There is also a lack of current research that analyzes the contributing barriers of food insecurity, as they only evaluate the after effects. To have key measures of success, Public Health leaders as a collective must tackle food insecurity at a multivariate level. Food Prescription programs also need to expand their access of outreach so that they can feed all individuals within food insecurities, instead of just one side of the population.