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Food Insecurity in Our Communities

Edited By: Eva Wilf

Food insecurity is a long-lasting global challenge. State College, Pennsylvania, is no exception.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, food insecurity and its effects have increased, causing people to struggle more than ever before. Food insecurity is defined as: “the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.” The problem isn’t necessarily lacking proper access to food, but not having proper access to adequate food. With that being said, food insecurity and its effects have increased from earlier time points since April of 2020. You guessed it, right when the COVID-19 pandemic hit hard.

The food insecurity experience today is "unprecedented in modern times." From 2001–2018, approximately 18% fewer mothers than during the pandemic with children twelve and under explained their children weren’t eating a substantial amount of food because they couldn’t afford it. In the same sense, from 2001–2018, about 23% fewer mothers than at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic with children of the same age claimed the food they purchased didn’t last; they didn’t have the resources to buy more. Both of these statistics show how the pandemic has caused food insecurity to increase. The costs of food insecurity harm the people of this country in detrimental ways.

First-year students at Penn State often go through something known as the “Freshman 15,” where they gain fifteen pounds at the start of college due to unhealthy eating habits. I myself have heard this many times before, understanding it fully due to the options available in this town. The majority of the restaurants in State College either feature pizza, burgers, or fried chicken. I could name on only one hand considerably healthy places with genuinely better options. More often than not, college students are low on income which means they are limited in the number of places they can eat from. It’s no surprise they resort to these cheap, fried chicken places—they’re quick, easy, and affordable. Shopping organic and eating from healthy restaurants is generally avoided as it is too expensive.

There are places attempting to provide healthy eating options in State College, but their selections go for a high price. These restaurants are often trying to reduce their prices so healthy meals become more accessible to more people. Food insecurity is a result of expensive but nutritious food, as many people are unable to afford these better options. Those who can’t purchase the higher quality food items resort to fast-food consumption; the food here is quite inexpensive, but not salubrious.

Restaurants with healthy eating options as well as Dancing Against Hunger share this goal of lessening the impact of food insecurity throughout the world. This includes enabling those who are food insecure to have more stable access to adequate, nutritious eating options. Our philosophy here at DAH is to “feed our communities, one dance at a time.” In fact, we’ve already started: the Roots of Life show—the first event we participated in—collected a total of 216 food items (192 meals), which were donated to the Helping Hands Pantry. By providing free dance education to all youth and organizing food drives to support local food banks, we want to improve this ongoing problem in every way we can.

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