1 in 6 Americans Go To Bed Hungry

Imagine opening your refrigerator and finding it empty. Imagine opening your kitchen cabinets and having no food. Sadly, that’s the reality for 50 million United States citizens; they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. That includes over 15 million children and 3 million senior citizens.

It’s hard to imagine that so many people in the United States don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Food insecurity leads to what I call the 4 S’s:

Sleep– Ever get up at night to raid the refrigerator when you couldn’t sleep? What if you had no food for dinner? Going to bed hungry makes it hard to sleep. And poor sleep increases the risk of obesity; it lowers the production of the hormone leptin that make us feel full. It also increases the production of the hormone ghrelin that makes us feel hungry. Too little sleep is also linked to an increase risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Stress– It’s hard to fathom how stressful not knowing where your next meal is coming from. And it never stops. We all know how bad constant stress makes us feel. It also makes us sick. Stress is associated with high blood pressure and heart disease.

Stamina– Anyone thinking about where their next meal is coming from is likely not to be thinking or participating in regular exercise, and that increases obesity, stress and heart disease.

School– It’s well known that kids who don’t eat breakfast do worse in school. That leads to poorer grades, a higher risk of dropping out, twice as many absences and a larger likelihood of lower income or living on welfare.

In addition to how badly the people feel, the 4 S’s lead to major medical issues that I call M & Ms.

Malnutrition– A person with limited money is more likely to eat junk food. Poor food choices lead to vitamin deficiencies and too much sugar, salt and trans-fats. A mother may also have to decide between feeding her kids breakfast or dinner.

Medical Problems:

Not taking medications– For an increasing number of people, it’s necessary to choose between buying food and buying medicine.

Type 2 Diabetes– with limited money, it’s far easier to eat fattening or unhealthy foods such as junk food, fast food, sodas and sweets. They are both cheaper and more readily available.

Obesity– Not everyone who is overweight eats too much. They may be eating poor food choices; it’s not always the quantity, it’s the quality. And people who have to skip meals because there isn’t enough to eat often overeat when food is available. This “yo-yo” dieting conditions their bodies to store more food as fat to serve as a source of energy for the lean days.

So now we know why food insecurity is unhealthy. But there is another component to food insecurity that is unhealthy for the country. It hits the United States in two of her most vulnerable places – financial problems and healthcare.

The financial crisis is affected because 1 in 6 food insecure Americans are going to do less well in school, have poorer paying jobs, be more likely to miss work if they have a job and potentially be unemployed. That is going to have a major impact on the work force and the economy of the United States.

Food insecurity’s impact on healthcare is also great. With 1 in 6 Americans at twice the risk for illness and at higher risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure, the impact on healthcare and its associated costs will be enormous.

But there is a silver lining. We can all do something to help. Consider donating food or any amount of money to a food bank near you or to Feeding America. In today’s economy, they need our help more than ever before because the people in need are increasing. Even states like Connecticut, the country’s wealthiest state, is adding people to the food insecure list at a rapid rate. We can also be more tolerant of people who are overweight. It just might be that they are food insecure and trying to get by on higher calorie, poorer quality food. Finally, we can spread the word. Awareness can make a huge difference. A little bit of change can make a lot of difference. Be part of the change.

I’ve added a video of my presentation to the Connecticut Food Bank. It highlights these and more points and includes the “Phat Fat Rap” song.

Living with Hunger
Come to the Hunger Banquet
Junk Food: Not as Cheap as You Think


Jayne J.
Jayne Jackson6 years ago

"We are the eyes in which God sees himself." If we don't act, who will?

Suzanne Till
Suzanne Till6 years ago

Nick you have completely missed the point. Isn't that far reaching to assume that all poor families eat fastfood? If a family does not have money for food how can a family afford a Big Mac? Just sayin'.....Was the 5 y.o. homeless girl I saw at a park in St. Louis with rotten teach munching on french fries? Let's say, "No."

Nick Scales
Nicholas Scales6 years ago

presumably the other 5 out of six over eat- I've seen Supersize me, and been to the states and it's not exactly full of walking ribcages like Somaliland and South Sudan.

Mary B.
Mary B6 years ago

Another thing that would be good to donate to a food bank is pet food since food stamps won't cover that, and people who have lost their income often have to abandon or give up their long term pets.

Karen F.
karen Friedman6 years ago

if the Repubtea party gets in office (more than it already has) you will more children and families going hungry.

Helle H.
Helle H6 years ago

Too bad we're colleting money for starving kids in othert countries when the neighbourg is starving.

cassandra toney
cassandra toney6 years ago

it should not be that way,how sad.

Sue T.
Susan T6 years ago

I know this is a serious subject especially for young children, so this comment is not directed at the kids.

That being said...with Michele Obama on her anti-obesity kick I think a lot of us should go to bed hungry. I usually do.

Just a thought.

Marie W.
Marie W6 years ago

And what does the GOP say to this??

june t.
june t6 years ago

Everything has gone up in price so much, I don't know how people on a fixed income can manage, it must be scary and sad. When you are living on a small fixed pension, there is no boss to go ask for a raise, and getting a job as a senior or disabled is next to impossible, people don't like to hire you. My heart goes out to people who are poor and hungry.