Food insecurity a public health concern

By the United Way of Bucks County

Studies are showing that food insecurity can lead to mental and physical health challenges, from ADHD to depression to an increased risk of obesity.

According to recent studies, food insecurity continues to be a major public health concern nationwide.

Characterized by a household lacking enough food to support a healthy lifestyle, there is growing evidence to suggest that food insecurity can predispose — or exacerbate — mental health issues in children and adults.

2019 study in the academic journal Nutrients shows that while additional research is needed, there is evidence to suggest a predictive relationship exists between childhood food insecurity and symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, with lasting impacts into adulthood.

Additional research regarding food and well-being, published in the Journal of Public Policy in 2018, explains that experiencing hunger even for a short period of time has adverse mental and physical outcomes, from depression and vitamin deficiencies to — surprisingly — an increased risk of obesity. In adults, experts note that food insecurity correlates with depression, feeling drained, and a depleted sense of well-being.

These findings are no surprise to Maddie Burgess, who serves as co-chair of Bucks County’s Hunger and Nutrition Coalition.

“If you are food-insecure, your mind is constantly worrying about where the next meal is coming from and how you are going to feed your family,” Burgess said. “It’s difficult to focus on other issues, even though you know you should be. So of course you are going to become anxious and possibly depressed.”

It’s easy to see the link between food insecurity and mental health. Beyond the mind-body connection of hunger, adults who worry about being able to feed themselves or their family experience extreme stress.

 Jennifer, originally from Bristol, who asked that we withhold her last name for privacy, understands firsthand what this feels like.

“Not knowing how I was going to feed my children was beyond stressful to me,” she said. “I was depressed but did not want my family to know it. I cried myself to sleep many nights, worrying about where our next meal was coming from.”

 Locally, the United Way of Bucks County is working with partners to help people like Jennifer. Bucks Knocks Out Hunger provides simple, nutritious, shelf-stable meals to families in need. BKO Hunger also provides fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, eggs, cheese, and other staples of a healthy diet.

“Health, nutrition and hunger are all closely interrelated,” said Tim Philpot, who organizes Bucks Knocks Out Hunger on behalf of the United Way of Bucks County. “If we can reduce hunger and improve nutrition at the same time, we know people will be healthier and happier. The catch is that we need donations from members of the public to be able to this.”

Fundraising for the June 21 event has already begun, with the goal of raising $85,000. This exceeds United Way’s 2018 goal of $80,000.

BKO Hunger sponsor organizations include Penn Community Bank as presenting sponsor, as well as BB&T, Bucks County Community College, Bucks County Women’s Initiative, Comcast, Cummins Sales and Service, Dominion Energy Foundation, Dow, First National Bank and Trust of Newtown, Key Bank, Parx, PECO, St. Philips Episcopal Church, Suez Water Technologies and Solutions, and Wawa.


Join us in changing lives in Bucks County for good by making a donation today. Donations can be made online or by mailing a check to, United Way of Bucks County, 413 Hood Blvd., Fairless Hills, PA 19030.