September 15el marks the start of Hispanic Heritage Month, which is a time to reflect on, learn about, and celebrate Hispanic culture and heritage. Nearly 380,000 Tennesseans identify as Hispanic, and, so, Tennessee heritage is deeply connected with Hispanic heritage. This Hispanic Heritage Month, Second Harvest wants to highlight the unique struggle with food insecurity our Hispanic neighbors face.
According to Feeding America’s 2022 Map the Meal Gap report, 1 out of 5 Hispanic individuals face food insecurity in Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee’s 46-county service area. When it comes to childhood food insecurity, the statistics are staggering. Nationally, Hispanic children are more than twice as likely to face hunger as white children. In 2021, 18.5% of Hispanic children experienced food insecurity according to Feeding America. That equates to 1 out of 5 Hispanic children not knowing where their next meal may come from.
Racial prejudice and language, education, and cultural barriers create inequalities that make food insecurity in Hispanic communities a uniquely prevalent problem. A 2023 report published in the Cambridge University Press found households in the United States that speak predominantly Spanish are 28 times more likely to face food insecurity than those speaking English. This was due to multiple reasons. For example, the report argues “Hispanic adults with limited English language skills are less likely to apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the US’ largest federal food safety net, when compared with those who are English proficient.” This is due to “Hispanic adults with limited English language skills report difficulty understanding current eligibility restrictions, not comprehending changes in eligibility requirements, a lengthy and complex application process and overall lack of federal food assistance program knowledge.”
This has catastrophic consequences for our Hispanic neighbors, and the Hispanic community across the country. The health impacts of poor nutrition because of food insecurity in adults are well known, however recent studies have found children are particularly at risk. Columbia’s School of Public Health writes in a 2022 report “Hispanic youths with limited access to nutritionally adequate food had worse cardiometabolic profiles than their ‘food secure’ counterparts.” While preventable, cardiometabolic diseases such as heart attack, stroke, and diabetes are often deadly and have lifelong impacts.
Seeing as access to government nutrition programs and increased food prices impact Hispanic communities at an increased rate, a strong Food Bank network is necessary to provide hunger relief for our Hispanic neighbors. Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee is committed to helping all our neighbors in need, and we are asking for your help to ensure no neighbor goes hungry in Middle or West Tennessee.