Hunger & Food Insecurity

Hunger & Food Insecurity

Hunger and health are connected. Having enough nutritious food is vital for overall physical and mental health. 

Hunger and food insecurity affect over 4 million Texans every year, including 1.3 million children. That means 1 in 5 children in Texas regularly goes hungry or does not have enough healthy food. Access to plentiful and nutritious food impacts the health and overall well-being of every member of our community. 

What Is Food Insecurity?

Food insecurity is when you don’t have enough daily food to live a healthy life. It can include not having access to healthy foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, skipping meals and having enough healthy food only some of the time. In 2022, 13% of American households, or 17 million people, experienced food insecurity.

Poverty is the most common cause of hunger and food insecurity.

Who Experiences Food Insecurity?

Households with children are most likely to go without food or enough healthy food. In 2022, 7 million American children went hungry at least some of the time. Minorities and immigrants are more likely to experience food insecurity.

Food Insecurity by Race

  • 20% of Black households
  • 16% of Hispanic households
  • 25% of Native American and Alaskan Native households
  • 20% of Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander households 
  • 7% of white households

Food Insecurity & Public Health

The negative effects of hunger are far-reaching and often devastating. We must increase access to healthy and plentiful food options to improve the health of our community.

Health care professionals should make sure they’re familiar with the impact of these issues so they can provide good care to their patients.

People who don’t have enough to eat are more likely to experience:

  • Childhood behavioral problems
  • Childhood developmental delays
  • Chronic illnesses
  • Diseases 
  • Injuries
  • Mental health issues

Behavioral Problems

Children who don’t get enough to eat are more likely to have hyperactivity, anxiety and aggression compared to other kids. Experts aren’t sure if this is because the children are stressed due to hunger or because a lack of proper nutrients can cause behavioral outbursts. 

Chronic Health Issues

Adults and children who don’t have access to enough healthy food are more likely to develop chronic health issues. Some of the top chronic illnesses among people with food insecurity are: 

Developmental Delays

A developmental delay is when kids don’t hit milestones on time as they grow. Developmental delays are more common when children experience food insecurity. Social skills, motor function, language and problem-solving skills are all potential developmental delays.

Disease & Injury

General illnesses and injuries are more common in people who don’t have enough healthy food. These include infectious diseases and oral diseases.

Mental Health Issues

Adults and children alike have much higher rates of mental illness when they experience food insecurity. One study showed people without enough food had a 257% higher risk of anxiety and a 253% higher risk of depression.


Food insecurity can lead to obesity. A lack of healthy food leads people to eat inexpensive, high-calorie foods that can lead to weight gain. 

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