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What's food got to do with it?

Food insecurity and overall health and well-being

Put yourself in the shoes of more than 17 million households across the United States.

You don’t have the money needed to put food on the table. You don’t have access to healthy, affordable food options. And, you often have to make the difficult decision between spending money on food or necessary medical care.

This is what it means to be food insecure. And, it has a major impact on your overall health.

Food insecurity can happen to anyone

Food insecurity External Site occurs whenever the availability of nutritionally adequate and safe food, or the ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways, is limited or uncertain. It has many faces, doesn’t stay within certain ZIP codes, and it certainly doesn’t abide by seasons. It’s a 365-day-a-year issue that affects kids and adults alike Opens PDF.

In Iowa, 1 in 8 people struggle with hunger, according to the Food Bank of Iowa External Site. And, 1 in 5 kids may not have enough food at home. More than 380,000 Iowans live at or below the poverty level.

South Dakota is a similar story. According to Feeding America External Site 1 in 8 people and 1 in 6 children struggle with hunger.

The impact of food insecurity on your health 

Studies from the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion External Site show that adults who are food insecure may be at an increased risk for negative health outcomes, like obesitydiabetes and high blood pressure, just to name a few.

People experiencing food insecurity have a higher chance of developing chronic disease due to a few different factors:

  • They have limited resources and don't have access to healthy foods at an affordable price. 
  • They may not eat for a period of time and then overeat when food is available, which can lead to weight gain.
  • The financial and emotional pressure of food insecurity leads to high levels of stress, anxiety and depression.
  • There may be fewer opportunities for physical activity due to environmental factors and lack of funds.
  • Studies show that low-income youth and adults have a greater exposure to obesity-causing products, like fast food and sugary drinks.
  • If people are making a decision between health care and food, adequate health care or prescriptions might take a back seat.

Children dealing with food insecurity are also at an increased risk for obesity and poor lifelong eating habits, as well as developmental problems, an inability to learn and possible mental health issues.

What The Wellmark® Foundation is doing to help

In 2018, The Wellmark Foundation awarded a $500,000 grant to the Food Bank of Iowa. This grant completed the renovation of the volunteer center. The Wellmark Foundation Volunteer Center provides a safe, comfortable environment for adults and children as young as 10 to engage in projects supporting Food Bank of Iowa’s mission.

The Wellmark Foundation Volunteer Center at the Food Bank of Iowa

“Living a healthy and productive lifestyle starts with proper nutrition, and the Food Bank of Iowa is making that possible,” said Becky Wampler Bland, executive director of The Wellmark Foundation.

“Together, The Wellmark Foundation and the Food Bank of Iowa are working toward a hunger-free Iowa by providing food to children, families and seniors so they can lead full, active lives. Because of this shared vision of our two organizations, the Foundation is proud to provide this grant and we look forward to seeing the impact it has on Iowans for generations to come,” said Wampler Bland.

In conjunction with the $500,000 grant, The Wellmark Foundation conducted a food and monetary drive at Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s offices in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The employees rallied to provide more than 88,000 meals to combat food insecurity in Iowa and South Dakota.

3 things you can do today to get involved

Ready to fight food insecurity in your community? Here are three ways you can get started:

  1. Donate items to your local food pantry

    Grocery items, like canned and dried goods, are obvious options. But, you can also donate personal care items and even homegrown garden produce, depending on your pantry. To find a food pantry near you, check out this online directory of food banks External Site, soup kitchens, and nonprofit organizations committed to fighting hunger.

  2. Donate money to Feeding America

    When you donate to Feeding America External Site, you’re helping a nationwide network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs. Every $1 you donate provides at least 10 meals to families through this network.

  3. Volunteer

    Much of what happens at a food pantry is done by volunteers. From food sorting to box packing, it all makes a positive impact on those who need it most. Plus, volunteering makes you feel good and can even add years to your life

    Volunteering during the COVID-19 pandemic

    The COVID-19 pandemic is keeping us from doing many things. But, it shouldn't keep you from volunteering. More than ever, organizations around the country need your support.

    However you choose to give back, keep these things in mind to keep you, your family and your community safe and healthy:

    • Check with the organization you're volunteering with about any special safety protocols they might have in place. 
    • Avoid crowds as much as possible. 
    • Wear a mask
    • Wash your hands

    For more information on volunteering during COVID-19, and even some virtual opportunities to give back, check out Volunteer Match External Site.

The Wellmark Foundation is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross® and Blue Shield® Association.