Understanding and Enhancing Our Ability to Reduce Food Insecurity

By Jeri Culley, Health and Human Services Lead, Ernst & Young LLP    January 26, 2024

Not having consistent access to the nutritious foods needed for a healthy life is food insecurity, and it has been exasperated by increases in poverty and the rise in food prices resulting from historic inflation. Poverty-related hunger can be temporary or long-term and can be caused by a variety of different factors, such as loss of income, injury or social inequities. It is astonishing that one of the richest countries in the world still contends with food insecurity among its residents, yet the efforts to combat it are encouraging. They range in scope and, together, can work to significantly decrease food insecurity.

The government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the first line of defense in increasing food purchasing power. Of the 22.3 million households currently on SNAP, more than 46% of recipients are children, 47% live with a disability, and nearly 40% of those households include older adults (United States Departments of Agriculture, 2022). Local food banks also help to provide food to people who face food insecurity. In addition, food supplemental programs include, but are not limited to, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Summer Nutrition Programs, Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), and At-Risk Afterschool Meals Program.

Community-based organizations and nongovernmental partners often play a key role in filling the gaps often left by these programs. One such organization is the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), which is committed to promoting policies to influence the improvement of nutrition, health and well-being of people challenged by poverty-related hunger. Through its tireless advocacy and partnerships and by advancing bold and equitable policy solutions, the organization is carrying out a mission that will lift up countless communities dealing with food scarcity. Recently, FRAC and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) teamed up to competitively award five organizations a total of $1.1 million to research barriers to equitable access in the federal child nutrition programs and identify strategies to eliminate them.

Having access to nutritious foods alone is not sufficient when eating healthy food is often not the easiest choice. To promote active and healthy lifestyles, SNAP also administers an education program that provides guidance to SNAP participants on planning and preparing healthy meals and engaging in lifestyle changes for healthy living. The SNAP Education program closes the space between accessing healthy foods and making them the easier choice.

The end goal of food assistance programs is to create self-sufficiency and eliminate the ongoing risk of food insecurity. Providing food to people who face that dilemma is crucial, but helping them gain skills and find work that moves them toward self-sufficiency is a critical piece of the puzzle and is overseen by SNAP-administering state agencies. The SNAP Employment and Training (SNAP E&T) program provides access to training and support services for individuals to help them enter or move up in the workforce, thus reducing or eliminating their risk level for food insecurity.

States are challenged in finding the additional resources and expertise needed to support these innovative programs, and many have turned to the EY organization for support. EY professionals support states to advance the ideation, development and implementation of food supplemental programs. We provide strategic planning, project management, capacity, and overall support to build a better working world and to serve the communities in which we live. Each day, through our government and public sector services, we solve the most complex challenges so that the government can build a stronger country for the people. To learn more about the EY impact in addressing human services challenges, click here.

The views reflected in this article are the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ernst & Young LLP or other members of the global EY organization.

About the Author

Jeri Culley

Health and Human Services Lead
Ernst & Young LLP

Understanding And Enhancing Our Fight to Reduce Food Insecurity

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