Reducing Hunger and Very Low Food Security

Most discussions of hunger or “very low food security” ignore the behaviors that contribute to the problem. Costly and inefficient food expenditures are a major factor. Households with VLFS spend a quarter of their food dollars in fast food restaurants and vending machines. Adults with VLFS drink nearly two cans of soda per day. Such spending patterns help to explain why these individuals may run short of money for food toward the end of the month. Public policy should encourage at-risk individuals to purchase healthier, less costly foods and to allocate food spending evenly throughout the month.

Smoking is another major factor contributing to hunger or very low food security in the U.S. Some 45 percent of adults with VLFS regularly smoke cigarettes. Consuming 19 packs of cigarettes per month on average, these individuals spend an estimated $112 each month on tobacco. Since money spent on cigarettes cannot be spent on food, regular smoking in many cases leads directly to very low food security and hunger. Simply calling for more generous government food benefits in these circumstances is clearly inappropriate. Treating food security as a stand-alone nutrition issue independent of the behaviors linked to it will only lead to unwise public policy.

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