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Food Insecurity

Findings in Santa Barbara County

Most U.S. households are able to obtain enough food for healthy, active lives, but others struggle with access to adequate food because of limited financial or other resources. These households are considered food insecure, which affects many physical and mental health problems.

For example, food insecurity can contribute to anemia, poor nutrition, cognitive and behavioral problems especially among children, anxiety, mental distress, and poorer general health.1

Measure

This measure was based on a combination of two survey questions:

  1. The food that {I/we} bought just didn't last, and {I/we} didn't have money to get more.
  2. In the last 12 months, did you ever eat less than you felt you should because there wasn’t enough money for food?

Respondents were asked to report if these statements were often true, sometimes true, or never true over the past 12 months.

Respondents who answered that either of these statements was at least sometimes true were considered food insecure. Although similar questions are available from the California Health Interview Survey, the questions were only asked among those who had incomes <200% below the Federal Poverty Level, so they are not directly comparable.

Table 17. Percentage of Adults With Food Insecurity in the Past Year and Healthy People 2020 Target

2016 Santa Barbara
BRFSS
California*Health People 2020
Target
%(95% CI) % (95% CI)
Overall 21.1 (18.3–24.0) NA
Male 20.6 (16.2–25.0) NA
Female 21.6 (18.0–25.3) NA
6.0**
Hispanic 30.7 (25.2–36.2) NA
Non-Hispanic White 15.8 (12.2–19.3) NA
Other 11.9 (4.9–19.0) NA

*2014 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
**Healthy People 2020 Target includes children and adults aged ≥2 years; HP 2020 measure is based on responses to three of 18 questions about food availability. For Santa Barbara County, the measure of food insecurity includes two questions, shown above.
NA = Not Available

Figure 51. Percentage of Adults With Food Insecurity in the Past Year in Santa Barbara County by Sex and Age

Percentage of Adults With Food Insecurity in the Past Year in Santa Barbara County by Sex and AgeClick to Enlarge

Figure 52. Percentage of Adults With Food Insecurity in the Past Year in Santa Barbara County by Race/Ethnicity, Educational Attainment, and Income

 Percentage of Adults With Food Insecurity in the Past Year in Santa Barbara County by Race/Ethnicity, Educational Attainment, and IncomeClick to Enlarge

Health Disparities

Nearly three times as many Santa Barbara County residents, 21%, have food insecurity compared to the national HP 2020 target of 6%. All groups—men, women, Hispanics, and whites—have higher percentages of food insecurity than the national target.

However, Hispanics have nearly twice the rate of food insecurity as non-Hispanic whites. As with many health risk factors, people without a high school degree and those in the lowest income group are much more likely to experience food insecurity.

Figure 53. Percentage of Santa Barbara County Adults Who Experienced Food Insecurity**, by County Subregion

Percentage of Santa Barbara County Adults Who Experienced Food Insecurity**, by County SubregionClick to Enlarge

Factors and Health Outcomes Associated with Food Insecurity

Figure 54 presents various factors and health outcomes associated food insecurity. The figure compares people who have food insecurity with all adults in the Santa Barbara County survey and with Californians as a whole.

Figure 54. Health and Risk Factors of Adults in Santa Barbara County With Food Insecurity (21.1%), Compared With All Santa Barbara County Adults and Californians* as a Whole

Health and Risk Factors of Adults in Santa Barbara With Food Insecurity (21.1%), Compared With All Santa Barbara Adults and Californians* as a Whole

*Data for California are not available for all indicators

The chart shows that the health outcomes of those reporting food insecurity are similar to the health outcomes for vulnerable people on other indicators. Adults in Santa Barbara County experiencing food insecurity have higher rates of poor health and higher rates of smoking. Twice as many residents with food insecurity lack a high school degree compared to people in the county overall. They also have very high rates of housing insecurity, and more than 40% report that they do not have a primary care provider.

Key Opportunities for Population Health Improvement

What Businesses Can Do

  • Work with local farmers’ markets to offer incentive matching programs for supplemental nutrition assistance program SNAP participants.2

https://www.cdc.gov/pcd/collections/pdf/PCD_CPPW_Collection_2013.pdf


What Healthcare Providers Can Do

  • Write nutrition prescriptions to increase healthy food consumption, including vouchers for fruits and vegetables.3
  • Refer patients to a Santa Barbara County farmers’ market that accepts CalFresh EBT and/or Market Match.4

3 http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/policies/nutrition-prescriptions
4 http://ecologycenter.org/fmfinder/?address_input=Santa+Barbara+County


What Individuals Can Do

  • Shop at a local farmers’ market that accepts CalFresh EBT and/or Market Match5
  • Use the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County.6

5 http://ecologycenter.org/fmfinder/?address_input=Santa+Barbara+County
6 http://foodbanksbc.org/



1 Gundersen, C., & Ziliak, J. P. (2015). Food insecurity and health outcomes. Health Affairs, 34(11), 1830-1839.


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