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Food insecurity is defined as inadequate access to food because of financial constraint. In 2015, 15.8 million U.S. households (12.7 percent of the U.S. population) were food insecure at some time during the year. Food insecurity is associated with higher risks of being hospitalized and poorer general health, and with having asthma, behavioral problems, depression, suicide ideations, and worse oral health. According to the Hunger in America 2014 survey, 66% of households served by the Feeding America network report choosing between food and medical care and 57% report choosing between food and housing. In addition to not being able to afford nutrient-rich food, community members living in economically disadvantaged neighborhood may have less access to locations that offer healthy foods. A lack of access to fresh, healthy foods can contribute to poor diets and higher level of obesity and diet-related diseases.
Beyond provided access to healthy foods and ensuring affordability, our food choices and health behaviors surrounding food and nutrition, including physical activity, also have a significant impact on overall health outcomes. Obesity is a national epidemic in the US. The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the United States was $147 billion in 2008 US dollars; the medical cost for people who have obesity was $1,429 higher than those of normal weight. Education on how to maintain a healthy diet and the importance of physical activity is key as well as the development of healthy habits during childhood. The negative impacts of obesity can be seen at a very early age. Children who are overweight or obese are at greater risk for diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, which have a significant impact on health and health care costs.
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