1. Breit, Susan DNP, RN, CNE
  2. Ortelli, Tracy A. PhD, RN, CNE, ANEF, FAAN


Resources for nurses, patients, and families.


Article Content

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as "a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food."1 Approximately 12% of Americans-more than 38 million people-live in food-insecure households, with Black and Hispanic households disproportionally affected.2 In addition, households with children, those in rural areas, and those in the South are more likely to experience food insecurity.2


An underrecognized social determinant of health, food insecurity may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and depression and anxiety.3 Furthermore, children living in food-insecure households have poorer academic performance and higher rates of lifetime asthma diagnosis, forgone medical care, and ED use compared with children in food-secure households.4, 5 Individuals with limited financial resources may purchase inexpensive, nutritionally poor foods or consume less food, which may result in malnutrition that, in turn, can lead to longer hospital stays, decreased responsiveness to treatment, and increased risk of developing postsurgical infections.6 Some people may also underuse medication or delay medical care in order to afford food.6


Nurses play an essential role in identifying, caring for, and advocating for patients and families experiencing food insecurity, in addition to supporting community programs like food banks, soup kitchens, and food drives. The following resources are provided to help nurses advance their knowledge about food insecurity and share information with patients and the public.



AARP Foundation and IMPAQ International: Implementing Food Security Screening and Referral for Older Patients in Primary Care: A Resource Guide and Toolkit


Strategies for addressing food security with older adults.


American Heart Association Policy Position Statement: Expanding Access to Healthy Food for Medicaid Beneficiaries


This statement discusses intervention models and policy recommendations.


Delivering Community Benefit: Healthy Food Playbook


Resources, case studies, and research reports on promoting access to healthy food in the community. Clinician resources for food insecurity screening are also included (see


Food Research and Action Center


This nonprofit, which works to reduce U.S. poverty-related hunger and undernutrition, offers research and data, screening tools, advocacy updates, an overview of federal nutrition programs, and information on hunger in specific populations. A free continuing education course, "Screen and Intervene: Addressing Food Insecurity Among Older Adults," is available at


Healthy People 2030: Nutrition and Healthy Eating


Evidence-based resources and exemplars related to the Healthy People 2030 goal: Improve health by promoting healthy eating and making nutritious foods available.


Hunger and Health


Food insecurity information, educational materials, toolkits, and links to trainings for health care professionals.


Hunger Free America


Visit this advocacy group's site to learn more about hunger in the United States-and actions individuals can take to help combat it.


Indian Health Service: Food Insecurity Assessment Tool and Resource List


Steps to take to address food insecurity, plus a shareable document to help patients find food assistance.


MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger


This national organization aims to address hunger among often overlooked populations, including military families; veterans; Native Americans; single mothers; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer older adults.


The Hunger Vital Sign


A validated two-item screening tool to identify households at risk for food insecurity.


USDA Economic Research Service: Food and Nutrition Assistance


This federal agency publishes research reports and data on child nutrition and food assistance programs, food insecurity in the United States, and more.



211: Food Programs and Food Benefits


Call 211 or visit this site to learn about local food resources, including nutrition assistance programs for children and older adults.


Feeding America


This national hunger relief network offers a food bank locator, food assistance information, and local volunteer opportunities.


Meals on Wheels America


Older adults can receive home-delivered meals through this community-based organization.




* Child Nutrition Programs on the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Special Milk Program, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, and the Summer Food Service Program.


* Commodity Supplemental Food Program program provides food packages to low-income adults ages 60 and older.


* Find Meals for Kids When Schools Are Closed this interactive map to locate nearby sites that supply meals to children when school is not in session.


* Food and Nutrition summary of the USDA's nutrition assistance programs, plus links to additional information.


* National Hunger Hotline assistance finding local food resources, call 1-866-3-HUNGRY (Spanish speakers can call 1-877-8-HAMBRE) between 7 AM and 10 PM EST or text 914-342-7744.


* Seniors Farmers' Market Nutrition Program initiative helps low-income seniors access fresh, local produce.


* Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) enables low-income pregnant and postpartum women, infants, and children up to age five to receive vouchers to buy food.


* Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) known as the Food Stamp Program, SNAP provides eligible individuals monthly benefits to purchase groceries.




1. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Definitions of food security. Washington, DC; 2021 Sep 8. [Context Link]


2. Coleman-Jensen A, et al Household food security in the United States in 2020. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture; 2021 Sep. [Context Link]


3. Thomas MK, et al Food insecurity and its impact on body weight, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and mental health. Curr Cardiovasc Risk Rep 2021;15(9):15. [Context Link]


4. Jyoti DF, et al Food insecurity affects school children's academic performance, weight gain, and social skills. J Nutr 2005;135(12):2831-9. [Context Link]


5. Thomas MMC, et al Food insecurity and child health. Pediatrics 2019;144(4). [Context Link]


6. Murthy VH. Food insecurity: a public health issue. Public Health Rep 2016;131(5):655-7. [Context Link]