Mental Health

Mandy Kloppers

Food Insecurity and Mental Health: The Hidden Crisis

Numerous Americans claim to be foodies, but many don’t get the adequate nutrition they need daily. Food insecurity is the lack of consistent access to food in a household for someone to live an active, healthy life. In some cases, it can be temporary for a family, or it can last for a long time.


Food insecure households often have to make choices regarding their finances, which usually means sacrificing meals to pay necessary bills. The results of food insecurity also impact mental health, and it has a profound effect on well-being.


Cheap processed and high-preservative foods become staples for the food-insecure, so their nutrition suffers. Poor dietary options soon lead to more severe problems with mental illness, leaving many overweight and depressed. 


Mental Health Effects

Food insecurity was discovered to have a 257% higher risk of anxiety and a 253% higher risk of depression in a study by the CDC. Loss of income or a job greatly contributes to food insecurity and mental health problems.


When someone can’t get enough nutritious food to eat, they can end up feeling more despair. It can worsen if there are others within the household that they care about, such as children, an aging parent, or other loved ones.


People who experience food insecurity feel mental stresses due to disrupted eating patterns, reduced food intake, or taking in foods that are less than nutritious. 


COVID-19 Pandemic

The challenges since the global pandemic of COVID-19 have significantly increased the price of food across all groups, from dairy meats to breads and whole grains. The disruption from normal activities initially contributed to mental health issues, but the lasting effects on low-income families have been more substantial. 


Those with lower incomes were more vulnerable due to the financial stresses. Families with children relying on school meals were at a high risk for hunger and isolation, leading to guilt, shame, and deeper psychological problems


How to Combat Food Insecurity

Since food insecurity goes far beyond not having enough food or not enough nutritious foods that affect your mental health, there must be ways to work around it. Some helpful things that families or individuals suffering can do include:

  • Explore the benefits of autophagy and how fasting can help you save money on your grocery bills. Getting essential nutrition can be kept simple and still allow you to feel nourished, not hungry.


  • Check with or sign up for a food distribution drive. There should be some local areas, and you can search online where pickups are available, and you can get whole, nutritious foods for free, so you don’t have to suffer from hunger.


  • Check with local or area food banks:


  • Traditional food banks aren’t always the same. You can reach out to local farms, stores, and restaurants regarding food rescue problems.


  • SNAP Benefits provide for households and individuals struggling with food insecurity, but be cautious since it doesn’t meet all federal nutrition standards.


  • Consider affordable supplements if you know your food sources are less than nutritious, or you’re not getting all the nutrients you need daily.


  • Community outreach is still a valuable resource – consider checking with friends and families within the area to see if you can have a food swap or exchange, teaming up together and helping one another.


Dealing with Stress and Mental Health Problems

If the growing epidemic of food insecurity has created issues with your mental health, you can work to incorporate some healthy habits when dealing with the stress and anxiety. These steps include some of the following:


  • Talking to people – the pandemic, food insecurity, and growing isolation concerns have kept relationships from blossoming. Reach out to your loved ones, neighbors, or join some community groups to make connections and open up about your concerns.


  • Exercise – Working out helps to release endorphins and boosts your mood, so try and get some movement in each day – for example, go for a quick, brisk walk if you’re feeling worked up or stressed about something.


  • Sleep – Your sleep is necessary for your physical and mental well-being, so ensure you get plenty of quality rest and don’t let your worries and stresses keep you awake at night.


  • Take breaks – give yourself time daily to dedicate to something you love doing or something that helps you unwind.


One last thing you can do is talk to a doctor or counsellor if you’re experiencing symptoms of severe anxiety or depression. It is possible that you may need the assistance of medication when coping with mental health problems.


The Mental Health Problems from Food Insecurity is a Big Issue

There is no doubt that food insecurity has a direct link to mental health. Individuals and families who are suffering from this need to work together to do what they can to help stay afloat. Self-care may be necessary, and working to find a supply of nutritious, healthy food is also critical to help. 


Work to create a healthy lifestyle and adopt new and positive habits that can help you cope with the mental problems associated with food insecurity, and continue to try avenues that will aid you in finding good foods to eat that satisfy your nutritional needs. Locate mental health services if you feel severe effects or have depressing thoughts.


As always, health professionals, friends, and loved ones are there to support you, so don’t ever feel as though you’re dealing with these problems alone!



Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

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