Food Insecurity

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Food Insecurity

When a person or family doesn't have money for or access to food, they are experiencing food insecurity. The most immediate result of food insecurity is hunger, which can affect a person's health and quality of life.

Having regular access to affordable, healthy food is an important part of a balanced lifestyle.

Reasons for Food Insecurity

People may experience food insecurity for many reasons, including:

  • Having limited access to a grocery store. For example:
    • They may live in a rural area with no bus route to their nearest grocery store.
    • Food stores near their homes may not sell fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Being unemployed or experiencing poverty. For example:
    • They recently got a flat tire and had to replace it. Now they can’t afford fresh groceries this week.
    • Their landlord increased their rent by $50, money which they previously used to buy groceries.

Food “Deserts” and “Swamps”

Many people in South Texas are food insecure because they live in “food deserts” and “food swamps.”

Food deserts are areas with little access to healthy and affordable food like fruits and vegetables. The area may not have any food stores or the community may not have transportation to get to a local grocery store.

Food swamps are neighborhoods with too many corner stores and fast-food restaurants. People living in food swamps can easily get processed foods like fast food, chips, fried food, candy and soda. These foods may be more affordable but are less healthy.

Effects of Food Insecurity on Health

Food insecurity has short-term and long-term health effects. Worrying about where to find your next meal or deciding between paying for groceries and making rent can cause stress. Stress contributes to conditions like heart disease, depression, obesity and gastrointestinal issues.

Regular access to fresh, nutritious food can help prevent and manage health conditions including:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Breast cancer
  • Colorectal cancer

Food Insecurity in Children and Young Adults

According to Feeding America, children who experience food insecurity don’t do as well in school as their peers. Children who eat three nutritious meals a day are more likely to get better test scores, better sleep and be healthier overall.

Many college students – about 1 in 4 – are food insecure. A study by the UTSA Urban Education Institute found that San Antonio students who were food insecure struggled academically during the COVID-19 pandemic more than their peers who had access to food.

Food Insecurity in Bexar County

Food insecurity is higher in Bexar County than the rest of Texas. Approximately 14% of people in Bexar County are food insecure. The rate of food insecurity in children is even higher, affecting about 20% of children in Bexar County.

More San Antonio households depend on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) compared to the state average. This is especially true in the central and southern parts of the city.

At least 1 in 4 households in the neighborhoods just south of downtown San Antonio rely on SNAP.

Food Insecurity in Texas

About 1 in 8 Texans experience food insecurity. According to Feeding Texas, 1.4 million households and nearly 4 million Texans face hunger. People of color, children and seniors disproportionately experience food insecurity.

But ending food insecurity is possible. Community gardens are sprouting up around the country and right here in San Antonio. Federal programs like SNAP are serving more Texans than ever before, especially older Texans.

University Health Resources

Community Gardens in Bexar County

Community gardens are a great way to fight food insecurity in your local neighborhood. They build trust and friendship among neighbors while providing affordable, fresh fruits and vegetables to everyone.

Green Spaces Alliance of South Texas

Green Spaces Alliance of South Texas cultivates urban green spaces and has helped establish more than 40 community gardens across San Antonio.

Gardopia Gardens

Gardopia Gardens is a nonprofit located on the city’s East Side. In addition to cultivating a microfarm, Gardopia provides education and outreach to combat malnutrition and obesity across San Antonio.

More Food and Nutrition Resources in Bexar County