Did you know that mental health can impact someone’s ability access to healthy, nutritious, affordable food? Similarly, food insecurity is shown to negatively impact mental health, increasing individuals’ risk of mental illness.
The Link of Mental Health and Food Insecurity
Hardships, like food insecurity, are known to contribute to poor mental health, and can exacerbate the lack of access to affordable, quality food. Hunger not only impacts physical health but also mental health, as prolonged stress can lead to depression, anxiety, and even trauma. Nutrition can also impact mental and emotional health, so if someone is not able to get enough healthy food to eat, this may lead to poor health.
Existing mental health disorders, or developed mental health disorders, can impact a person’s ability to get quality food. Mental illness often leads to loss in jobs/income and an inability to care for oneself, which means that food might become more scarce. NAMI reports, “Just as being food-insecure may contribute to stress or anxiety, having a serious mental health condition may hinder a person’s ability to work or limit the kind of work they can do, making it more difficult to afford groceries.”
For mothers and their children, the link between mental health and food insecurity is extremely important. Utah Food Bank explains that “Mothers and children, in particular, are at high risk of experiencing traumatic effects on their mental health. Food-insecure mothers have more than two times higher rates of mental health issues than fully food-secure mothers. The odds of behavioral problems among children with food-insecure mothers are double those among children with food-secure mothers.”
According to data from the American Academy of Pediatrics, “mothers with school-aged children who face severe hunger are 56% more likely to have PTSD and 53% more likely to have severe depression.”
How Pantries Help
This important relationship between mental health and food insecurity is especially important when it comes to food pantries. At JFCS, we are not only providing food to families, but we are ensuring that individuals who are homebound (for whatever reason) are able to access food, and that families with children can get the nutrition they need for a healthy childhood.