The Award ceremony and lecture has been organized online on June, 20, 2023, at 10:00 AM EST (2:00 PM UTC, 4:00 PM CEST). Find below the questions and answers following the conference.
Food assistance, providing additional vouchers or benefits to obtain food, is a very effective tool to improve food security so application to receive this benefit if the household is qualified is a first step. Making sure to use other food assistance programs like those directed at women, infants, and children (WIC program), meals for children (school lunch, breakfast, summer programs), and other federal nutrition assistance are also important. Next, receiving nutrition education may be a very effective resource for some individuals and households. This program provides education on maximizing the ability to get the most nutrition per food dollar to help households optimize the resource they will spend on food and learn healthful ways to prepare and keep food safe. Through our research we have shown that nutrition education can improve food security by 25% in the US context. Finally, reaching out to use emergency food resources like food pantries in the community and area may supply additional food and help to connect families with additional support.
As a nation, we grow enough food to support our population, we can invest more in the nutrition and health of our population. These investments are for the long-term. For example, policy is a very effective lever to support families trying to help themselves. Policies that support living wages and expand food assistance programs could be very effective at helping individuals during critical times to overcome poverty. Making sure that families and especially children have enough food for healthy, active lives, will support future health potential, achievement, and prosperity. We also need to work on addressing racism and inequality in our population as the groups most impacted by food insecurity are those who have historically experienced exclusion: minorities, native groups, those with disabilities, veterans, and others.
The question identifies the diversity of the problem in varying regions and populations and how the unique region and population need attention and tailored solutions. Measuring the extent of the issues is essential to start and determining the dietary inadequacies along with the dietary provisions in the food environment may be helpful to designing and considering the best interventions. We can’t change what we haven’t measured so starting with learning more about the context and considering the factors impacting the situation to uncover levers or places to intervene. Dietary intake is personal but also contextual and before people can improve selection they have to have a safe and certain supply of food.
Prioritizing healthful environments and practices, equity, and inclusion are important. Looking for ways to connect resources to low income and food insecure households are promising approaches. Practical applications may be local support of healthful food environments, food supply, support of food assistance and living wages.
This is a difficult question and I think it depends on the specific context. Some important factors to consider may be the specific dietary shortfalls to identify what foods and nutrients are missing and then evaluation of the food supply to better understand what is available. Also understanding what food safety issues are prevalent and where food safety is being compromised may help. Collaboration across disciplines (as DIPA recognizes) is very important to find creative and practical solutions yet, this is really a “million dollar” question that deserves much further discussion as it is very important and cross-cutting! Each country context is very different and challenging to optimizing limited resources.
We have focused on households with children and those using community food pantries. There is a growing recognition of the food insecurity that exists on college campuses but yet food insecurity remains a problem among young people who do not have access to education. Food insecurity, wherever it exists is important to address.
Those of minority race (Hispanic and non-Hispanic black) have the highest rates of child obesity in the U.S. but this is a multi-faceted issue that has many contributors. These groups have experiences historic discrimination and racism so that they are also groups that have less access to health care, gaps in receiving other resources, in income, and other access to basic needs.
We could implement and invest more resources as a country in prevention and improvement of the health of our environments, our lifestyles and support of healthful diets and healthful activity.
Despite high intake of energy, obesity often coincides with inadequate intake of essential nutrients. Nutrient intakes may be difficult to evaluate without dietary assessment as they may not immediately manifest in outward symptoms. Some of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the U.S. are for vitamin D, calcium, and iron. Iron deficiency and a more severe situation leading to iron deficiency anemia is linked with poor mental development and also growth. Not getting enough calcium especially in childhood and adolescents can lead to a higher risk of osteoporosis as an adult.