Hunger can go by many names: food insecurity, food hardships, food shortages, meal gaps. Regardless of the chosen terminology, hunger is a consequence of poverty and the result of food not being available, affordable and accessible to people with insufficient financial resources.
A person is considered to be living in poverty if their income falls below the national poverty level, which is adjusted annually and varies according to household size. For example, the 2013 federal poverty level for a family of four -- 2 adults with 2 children -- is an annul income of no more than $23,050.
The federal government uses the terms food security v. food insecurity, rather than "hunger" and defines household food security as meaning access by all members at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.
Food security includes at a minimum the ready availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods and assured ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways (that is, without resorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging, stealing, or other coping strategies).
Food insecurity is defined as limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.
In simpler non bureaucratic terms, if one skips meals, cuts portions or otherwise forgoes food at times because of household finances, they are food insecure.
Many people considered to be food insecure reside in neighborhoods called "food deserts", neighborhoods that are not close to major supermarkets or club stores and where it is difficult to find relatively affordable prices and healthier food items. Trenton, with only two full service supermarkets (for a population of 76,000), but an abundance of mom-and-pop stores, convenience stores, bodegas, and grocery sections of gas stations in the city, is a prime example of a "food desert".
What happens in food dessert neighborhoods is that people with the least amount of money pay the most for their food and are limited in what they can buy and where they can shop. In short, food is not available, affordable and accessible.
Even if where one shops in not an issue, the price of food is. People who struggle to put food on their table stretch their food budget by purchasing the cheapest and most filling foods. The least costly foods generally have little nutritional value and are most likely to contain high and unhealthy amounts of fat, sugar, salt or are made from refined grains, all of which contribute to the multiple health issues facing our nation. The healthiest foods ? fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, lean meat, poultry, low fat dairy and whole grain products ? are too costly or not readily available in the food stores where low income people shop.
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