Image of an empty fruit aisle

Food Shortage in the USA is affecting young people

We cannot ignore the USA food shortage and the impact it is having on young Americans, notes Rose Sarner. Individual actions need to be accompanied by policy change for effective change to take place.

The world is currently experiencing a rapid and urgent food crisis – and we are in denial.The effects of the USA food shortage are being felt most acutely by young people. In 2021, 54 million Americans did not have access to healthy food.  And 80 per cent of Americans fail to eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables.

There is an abundance of data that highlights that there are severe food shortages, food deserts, and a dearth of healthy food options in the United States. However, despite this urgency – there is a lack of mainstream discourse that acknowledges the crisis that we are in. 

As conflicts continue to pile up, it is easy to ignore the truth by sticking our heads in the sand. It is easy to pretend that responsibility lies with someone else. There is a (temporary) relief that comes from ignoring problems. But it doesn’t make them go away. In fact, it makes them worse.

A Collective Responsibility.

As young adults, it is our collective responsibility to actively educate ourselves, and engage with the issues that have been feared, ignored, and relegated to someone else. This is the only way to affect change and improve the world we live in.

New York Times columnist Bob Herbert notes that we are “in denial about the extent of the rot in the system, and the effort that would be required to turn things around”. Why is this? How is it that world leaders have failed to enact change that would help mitigate the food crisis? In fact, they have chosen to deny the existence of this crisis. Our generation does not have this luxury.

We need to work together on a sustainable plan to mitigate this crisis. Our generation is filled with brave, radical thinkers who are not afraid to question, learn, and expose intense truths. Actions cannot be tokenistic. While attending annual food bank events are important. This cannot be the only solution. It is up to us to initiate long-lasting change. We need to take our heads out of the dirt. 

Educating impacts of food shortage.

We need to educate people about the urgency of the crisis. This urgency needs to be brought into the mainstream. Education about the value and importance of nutrition is integral. We cannot merely give handouts of healthy produce. This needs to be accompanied by education about the positive impacts of healthy produce on long-term health and well-being. 

The link between nutrition and mental health and wellbeing

The connection between diet and emotions stems from the close relationship between your brain and your gastrointestinal tract, often called the “second brain.” Here’s how it works: Your GI tract is home to billions of bacteria that influence the production of neurotransmitters, chemical substances that constantly carry messages from the gut to the brain. (Dopamine and serotonin are two common examples). Eating healthy food promotes the growth of “good” bacteria, which in turn positively affects neurotransmitter production. A steady diet of junk food, on the other hand, can cause inflammation that hampers production. When neurotransmitter production is in good shape, your brain receives these positive messages loud and clear, and your emotions reflect it. But when production goes awry, so might your mood.

Food shortage in the USA and young people.

More than 9 million children faced hunger in 2021. That estimates that one in eight children in America is at risk for hunger. Black and Latino children are more likely to face hunger than white children because of systemic racial injustice.

According to the USDA, in 2021, 22 per cent of Black children were food insecure, and 18.5 per cent of Latino children were food insecure. Kids who do not get enough to eat — especially during their first three years — begin life at disadvantage.

Children facing hunger are more likely to be hospitalised and face higher risks of health conditions like anaemia and asthma. And as they grow up, kids who missed meals are more likely to have problems in school and other social situations.

As individuals, there is much that we can do. And our individual actions need to be accompanied by policy change. We must work with lawmakers to ensure that legislation is passed that ensures that each and every American has access to sustainable produce at fair prices.

Feature Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

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Food Shortage in the USA is affecting young people

by Rose Sarner Reading time: 3 min