Do you know what it means to be food insecure? These 7 facts may help.

Picture an average family — mom, dad, two kids — on the brink of going hungry right around the holidays.

They're not homeless. In fact, both parents have jobs, but they're low-paying jobs, which means living paycheck-to-paycheck is the norm.

Since money is incredibly tight, mom and dad may skip a meal here and there, so their kids can eat, but they manage to get by. That is, until their son winds up in the hospital with appendicitis, which inevitably gouges the meager savings they keep for emergencies.


Now this family has found itself in the terrifying position of not knowing how to pay for the next meal.

This scenario isn't a hypothetical and doesn't just exist in the poorer recesses of this country. It's all around us — in every county in America.  

Photo by Priscilla du Preez/Unsplash.

According to the USDA, 41 million Americans were food insecure in 2016 — that's 1 in every 8 people. That means you've probably interacted with people recently who are currently struggling to afford food for themselves and their families. And it's not that they're not trying — food insecurity can simply become the unfortunate reality when something more crucial, like medical care, needs to be paid for. Food is often the first thing on the chopping block.

Think that's surprising? Then there's probably a lot more you don't know.

Here are seven other facts about food insecurity in America and what we're doing to help stop it.

Photo by Brunel Johnson/Unsplash.

1. Food insecurity, on average, affects more women and people of color.

Based on statistics collected by The National Commission of Hunger, 12.8% of households run by women experience food insecurity compared to just 7% of male-run households. Meanwhile black households are more than twice as likely to experience hunger compared to white households. No doubt the gender and racial wage gaps have had some effect on these numbers.

2. A driving force behind food insecurity in America seems to be a lack of savings.

Photo by Allef Vinicius/Unsplash.

We all know we're supposed to put money aside for emergencies and big budget things, but it can be difficult when people have pressing needs like food, clothes, and shelter. According to a survey conducted by GOBankingRates, 57% of Americans currently have less than $1,000 in their savings. This means all it could take is one unpredicted medical issue to drain that savings and throw a family into a financial strain where their ability to buy food is compromised.

3. One person's incarceration can leave entire families hungry.

If a family's sole breadwinner is put in prison, it can become incredibly difficult for them to make ends meet and put food on the table. This doesn't necessarily change when that person is released. In fact, according to the The National Commission of Hunger's survey, 90% of formerly incarcerated individuals' households experience food insecurity. This is likely due to a number of factors, including how a prison record can affect job prospects.

4. Hunger affects many children's mental and physical health.

Photo via Free-Photos/Pixabay.

According to the nonprofit Feeding America, 13 million children face hunger in America today. If children under the age of 3 don't get enough food to eat, they face a whole host of health issues, including risks of anemia and asthma. As they grow up, lack of nutrition can cause social and behavioral issues, affect academic performance, and even increase suicidal thoughts and actions. It's amazing to think that regular meals can make such a difference.

5. In a country where so many people are food insecure, we waste an unfathomable amount of food every year.

72 billion pounds of perfectly good food goes into landfills and incinerators every year, and that doesn't include the food we throw away at home. In economic language, that's roughly $218 billion worth of food waste. Those statistics are even more absurd when you think about it in conjunction with how many people are going to bed hungry tonight. The solution to this terrible problem is staring up at us from giant landfills across the country.  

6. The good news is, a number of organizations are working to end hunger and food insecurity using surplus food.

Photo via Kroger.

The Kroger Family of Companies, one of the country's leading grocery retailers, donated the equivalent of 330 million meals to people in need in 2016. They take food that’s expiring, but still perfectly edible and nutritious, off their shelves and give it to organizations that help feed the hungry, thereby helping close the food waste gap.

They've also given $3 million to Feeding America in honor of its annual hunger awareness campaign, Bringing Hope to the Table.

7. You too can help end hunger and food insecurity by taking some simple steps.

Donations like the ones described above could not be completed without the charitable work of everyday people. Thanks to community efforts, this movement is making real progress. You can aid that progress by advocating to end hunger with organizations like Feeding America and, of course, by volunteering your time at a local food bank.

Food insecurity is an ongoing crisis in our country, but as long as there are people and organizations who strive to change that, American families that are struggling to eat will have a lifeline.

The next time you're at the grocery store, remember that family from above could be behind you in the checkout line, hoping they have enough money to cover basic supplies. Perhaps it's time to extend a hand to your neighbors?

Find out more about how The Kroger Family of Companies and Feeding America are helping combat food insecurity:

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Hunger could happen to any of us.

Posted by Upworthy on Wednesday, December 20, 2017
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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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