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A new study commissioned by Bread for the World Institute shows that last year alone, hunger and food insecurity increased health expenditures in the United States by $160 billion. The study is highlighted in the Institute’s new report, The Nourishing Effect: Ending Hunger, Improving Health, Reducing Inequality.
“Nowhere are the hidden costs of hunger and food insecurity greater than in health care,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. “Access to nutritious food is essential to healthy growth and development, and can prevent the need for costly medical care. Many chronic diseases — the main causes of poor health as well as the main drivers of healthcare costs — are related to diet.”
Food insecurity is associated with higher rates of depression, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other physical and mental health conditions. Food assistance programs such as SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) and school lunches save money in the long run by improving educational and health outcomes.
Government resources that could go toward programs such as early childhood education or reducing the national debt are instead spent in emergency rooms and hospitals to offset the costs of hunger and food insecurity. The $160 billion is equivalent to more than a third of the U.S. government’s annual deficit.
The study was carried out by John Cook of Boston Medical Center and Children’s HealthWatch, and Ana Paula Poblacion of Universidade Federal de São Paulo in Brazil.
“The old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure has never been more appropriate,” said Asma Lateef, director of Bread for the World Institute. “Investments in federal nutrition programs are critical and much more needs to be done to ensure that vulnerable and underserved communities have access to healthy foods.”
Ending hunger and food insecurity will allow millions of people to do better in school, be more productive at work, and live healthier lives. The Nourishing Effect offers recommendations for healthcare providers, anti-hunger advocates, and policymakers to help make a healthier, hunger-free U.S. a reality.
Hunger and food insecurity have increased health expenditures in the United States by $160 billion in recent years
Afghanistan would be considered likely to have high rates of hunger because at least two of the major causes of global hunger affect it—armed conflict and fragile governmental institutions.
Malnutrition is responsible for nearly half of all preventable deaths among children under 5. Every year, the world loses hundreds of thousands of young children and babies to hunger-related causes.
Bread for the World is calling on the Biden-Harris administration and Congress to build a better 1,000-Days infrastructure in the United States.
“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in faith.” These words from Colossians 2:6 remind us of the faith that is active in love for our neighbors.
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The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is designed to respond to changes in need, making it well suited to respond to crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bread for the World and its partners are asking Congress to provide $200 million for global nutrition.
In 2017, 11.8 percent of households in the U.S.—40 million people—were food-insecure, meaning that they were unsure at some point during the year about how they would provide for their next meal.