For decades, medical researchers and physicians have recognized that food insecurity is a determinant of chronic disease morbidity and mortality, a problem exacerbated during the outbreak of COVID-19. In turn, food insecurity has caused economic and public health crises that is worsened by the invasion of Ukraine by Russian, ongoing supply chain issues across the globe, and a shortage of fertilizer to maximize agriculture across the US and beyond.
Food insecurity contributes to poor health outcomes in both the short and long-term. In the short-term, increased food insecurity, low household economic disruption and resulting stresses, and interruptions in healthcare service during periods of COVID-driven isolation contribute to acute chronic disease complications. Moreover, the impact of food security lingers, even after COVID restrictions are lifted, as the ‘new normal of healthcare systems stabilize, resulting in additional risk for chronic disease development, morbidity, and mortality among food-insecure households.
The impact of food insecurity in less developed nations, such as in Africa, where more than 50% of the population is moderately or severely food insecure, reveal the longer-term impact of food insecurity. Research undertaken in Africa during the past five years reveals that food insecurity is associated with poor mental health, as well as poor developmental and physical health outcomes, including growth stunting in children.
Moreover, leading neuroscientists’ studies indicate that a major challenge for neuroscience and public health experts is to understand the effects of food scarcity on the developing brain as it is recognized that a significant number of children and adolescents worldwide experience insecure access to food. Moreover, scientists now recognize how even a transient experience of insecure versus secure access to food during the juvenile-adolescent period can produced lasting differences in learning, decision-making in adulthood, thus resulting in a major health disparity for individuals lacking adequate food security and nutrition.
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John Paul Trudell, Maddison L. Burnet, Bianca R. Ziegler, Isaac Luginaah, The impact of food insecurity on mental health in Africa: A systematic review, Social Science & Medicine,
V 278, 2021, 113953, ISSN 0277-9536, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2021.113953.
Linda Wilbrecht Ph.D Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of California, Berkeley, The Wilbrecht Lab, “Transient food insecurity during the juvenile-adolescent period affects adult weigh, cognitive flexibility, and dopamine neurobiology. Wilbrecht Lab