Food Insecurity

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Food Insecurity Profile

Download an in-depth health indicator profile with additional analysis and findings on food insecurity in Santa Barbara County.

Full Analysis

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

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

  1. In the past 12 months, 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.

Findings from the 2019 Santa Barbara County CHNA

Food insecurity as defined here has remained unchanged overall in Santa Barbara County between 2016 and 2019, though there are subpopulations that have seen changes. Most impacted demographic subgroups include Hispanic people, adults aged 18-44 years old, those with high school education or less, and those with household incomes below $35,000 (see figure below).

Additional food insecurity findings from the 2019 Santa Barbara County CHNA can be found in the Food Insecurity Health Indicator Profile. Follow this link to learn more about the methods for health indicator profile analysis.

Figure 1. 2019 Percentage of Adults in 2019 with Food Insecurity by Demographic Group

Figure 1. 2019 Percentage of Adults in 2019 with Food Insecurity by Demographic Group

Click to Enlarge

Findings from the 2019 Santa Barbara County Listening Tour

Cottage Health and its partners heard from a wide array of leaders and community members through a Listening Tour focused on behavioral health. A full Listening Tour report related to food insecurity can be found in the Food Insecurity Health Indicator Profile.

Through the 2019 Behavioral Health Listening Tour, participants repeatedly identified the central role that food security has in any understanding of wellbeing. Struggling to provide food for oneself or one’s family brings with it physical discomfort and hunger as well as a persistent undercurrent of worry as people move through their daily lives.

Quote from a Physician

“The food that is available for lower cost is not always the most nutritious. So, it’s really how to access nutritious foods that are helpful for maintaining health, especially with our diabetic patients or low-carb options. Also, if you’re undomiciled, if you’re unhoused, you can’t cook steamed broccoli. You go get a 99 cent, 49 cent cheeseburger or taco or whatever it is. You stand outside McDonald’s, you’re more likely to get fries than broccoli.”

Policies and programs addressing food insecurity must empower residents to obtain a safe, culturally acceptable, and nutritionally adequate diet through sustainable food systems. In addition, the most successful programs will address elements that are inextricably tied to the experience of being food insecure, such as having safe, stable, and affordable housing.

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

Behavioral Health Listening Tour

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Learn about the behavioral challenges facing populations in Santa Barbara County and the implications that they have on public health.

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