Welcome to Friday Facts! Each week we’ll be taking a look at a specific chart from the Data & Resources section of our website. This week we’re focusing on food security in Alameda County.
We’ve talked before about how the economic prosperity of the Bay Area has not trickled down to all populations in the region, but in today’s Friday Facts we’ll see some striking disparities in the East Bay.
Food security, simply put, is the ability to afford enough food on a consistent basis. In today’s Friday Facts chart, we can see the rates of food insecurity, by race and ethnicity, among people in Alameda County living below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. Among this population, African Americans (57.4%) are more than twice as likely as Whites (26.9%) to be unable to afford food on a consistent basis, and Latinos (50.2%) are nearly twice as likely. These families often have to make the difficult choice between food and other basic needs.
In our brief, The Inextricable Connection between Food Insecurity and Diabetes, we examined the health impacts of food insecurity. We found that adults living with the most severe levels of food insecurity have more than twice the risk of developing diabetes as adults who are not food insecure.
While it might seem a paradox that food insecurity would lead to the consumption of more unhealthy foods, we found that that is often the case for a number of reasons, including:
- In an effort to maintain caloric intake, adults experience food insecurity limit the variety of their food and concentrate on low-cost, energy-dense, and nutritionally poor foods such as refined carbohydrates and foods with added sugars, fats, and sodium.
- Food insecurity is cyclical and food insecure households alternate between times of having food and experiencing scarcity. This leads to the over-consumption of food when it is accessible.
- The lack of supermarkets in low-income neighborhoods prevents many food-insecure families from purchasing healthy options.
Raising the minimum wage is one way to improve security, and some progress has been made. For example, Oakland (Alameda County’s largest city) has recently raised the minimum wage, which will hopefully help low-income people afford healthier food options on a more regular basis.
However, we also recommended that we must protect public programs like Supplemental Security Income and CalWORKS to support low-income families. Efforts on these recommendations are ongoing, and for more information, the California Budget & Policy Center has many resources on the state of these programs in California.
It’s unacceptable that anyone should experience hunger, let alone those living in one of the wealthiest regions of the country. Together, we can work to help fight food insecurity. If you know of other resources, please include them in the comments.