Priority Area: Food Security

Success Measure:
72,000
more food-secure households by 2030

Louisiana 2023 Ranking:
47th up from 48th in 2020
GOAL: Reduce food insecurity rates by connecting people to benefit programs and food support systems, providing education on healthy foods, strengthening existing initiatives, and establishing new partnerships.

REASON: Food insecurity has broad effects on health due to the mental and physical stress it places on the body and is associated with anemia, asthma, depression and anxiety, cognitive and behavioral problems and higher healthcare-related costs. The rate of food insecurity in Louisiana is 15% as opposed to 10% in the United States.
(AHR)
LA Rate
15.2%
US Rate
11.2%
Food Insecurity is the inability to provide adequate food for one or more household members due to lack of resources. For Louisiana, a 4% decrease is required to meet the national average (AHR).

Success Measures

Percentage of households with food insecurity

2020 Baseline
15.8%
2023 Actual
15.2%
2030 Target
11.7%
In Louisiana...
1 in 7 People
face hunger
1 in 5 Children
face hunger
Source: Feeding America
In America...
$160B
health-related costs attributed to hunger were conservatively estimated at $160 billion nationally in 2014.
$1,834+
a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found that food insecure adults had annual health care expenditures $1,834 higher than food secure adults.
Source: Food Insecurity (AHR) America's Health Rankings
Who is affected most?
Food insecurity is an economic and social condition. Those most affected include marginalized and socially disadvantaged populations.
2 x Higher
in Hispanic and Black than in Non-Hispanic White households
Lower-income households
compared to higher-income households
Households with children
particularly children ages 0-5, compared to households without children
Single adult households
particularly a single woman, compared to households with multiple adults
Source: Food Insecurity (AHR) America's Health Rankings

What works?

SNAP: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides financial support each month for the purchase of  food. Research studies have shown that enrollment in SNAP reduces food insecurity and improves the overall health and well-being of participants.

84%
total SNAP participation in Louisiana, all eligible people


WIC:
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides food and nutritional support for children and pregnant and postpartum women. 

School Lunch and Breakfast Programs: The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program SBP) provide free or low-cost meals to students at school. One study has shown that free or reduced lunches can reduce food insecurity by almost 4%. Source
Food Banks: Local food banks provide free food to those in need.

Why does this matter?

At the start of 2022, the Healthy State Advisory Board added Food Insecurity to our list of priority issues. The reason is simple – too many of our residents are hungry and lack consistent and reliable access to food, especially healthy and nutritious foods that support a well-balanced diet and healthy life. And we know that the most vulnerable among us suffer more – our children, seniors, and people with a low income. Food Insecurity needs to be a focus for Healthy State because:

• Louisiana is ranked 47th in the nation for the percentage of food insecure households.
• Over 680,000 people in Louisiana are food insecure.
• Louisiana is ranks 2nd for child poverty  with over 234,00 food insecure children.
• Louisiana ranks 1st in the nation for senior hunger.
• Louisiana is in the top 5 states with the highest per capita health care costs associated with food insecurity.
• Almost 30% of college students experience food insecurity

What Are the Impacts of Food Insecurity?
Food Insecurity has broad effects on health due to the mental and physical stress associated with hunger and the uncertainty and timing of a next meal. According to The American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease and overall mortality is higher in people who report food insecurity, and the CDC reported that food insecure people spend $1,834 more than food secure adults on health care. Children who experience food insecurity, research shows an increased risks of “some birth defects, anemia, lower nutrient intakes, cognitive problems, and aggression and anxiety”, while seniors who participate in SNAP are less likely to enter a nursing home or be hospitalized. Finally, research has shown that the total health care costs in the nation related to food insecurity to be about $160 billion.

While food security may be “long term or temporary” for a specific individual or household, food insecurity in Louisiana is cyclical and directly linked to social determinants of health. AHR reports that food insecurity is higher among Black and Hispanic households, lower-income households, families with children, and single-family households.

Sources:
Explore Food Insecurity in Louisiana | AHR (americashealthrankings.org)
Hunger in Louisiana | How Food Insecurity Affects Our Community — Feeding Louisiana
LBP Census 2021 (Released 2022) (labudget.org)
Louisiana | Feeding America
Hunger in Louisiana | How Food Insecurity Affects Our Community — Feeding Louisiana
State-Level and County-Level Estimates of Health Care Costs Associated with Food Insecurity (cdc.gov)
Hunger-Free Campus Designations Expand Across Louisiana – Louisiana Board of Regents (laregents.edu)
Food Insecurity Is Associated With Cardiovascular and All‐Cause Mortality Among Adults in the United States | Journal of the American Heart Association (ahajournals.org)
State-Level and County-Level Estimates of Health Care Costs Associated with Food Insecurity (cdc.gov)
Food Insecurity And Health Outcomes | Health Affairs
Links of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program With Food Insecurity, Poverty, and Health: Evidence and Potential - PMC (nih.gov)
HR2016-Full-Report-Web.pdf (hungerreport.org)
Food Insecurity - Healthy People 2030 | health.gov
Explore Food Insecurity in Louisiana | AHR (americashealthrankings.org)

In my community
Source: Feeding America
Children and Food Security
  • Too many children in Louisiana experience hunger daily. In Louisiana, 640,540 people are facing hunger, including 1 in 5 children (Feeding America)
  • Schools are the source of the healthiest food children eat during the day (JAMA)
  • Free or reduced-price school lunches reduces food insecurity by at least 3.8% (FRAC)
  • Children participating in free meals at school are less like to have nutritional deficiencies (FRAC)
  • Participation in school meal programs is associated with a significantly lower body mass index (BMI) among young, low-income children (FRAC)
  • Children who experience hunger have lower math and reading scores, and more behavioral, emotional, and mental health issues (FRAC)
Seniors and Food Security
Food Insecurity on College Campuses
  • Hunger-Free Campus Designations Expand Across Louisiana: Members of the Board of Regents (Regents) met today, approving hunger-free campus designations for 31 public and 4 private Louisiana higher education institutions across the state. (LA Board of Regents)
  • Prior to the pandemic, a staggering 30 percent of all college students experienced food insecurity at some point in their college careers (Students Against Hunger)
  • College students in Louisiana are more likely to be hungry than the US rate (LBP)
  • There are significant racial and ethnic disparities – 70% Black compared to 54% of White students (Health Affairs)
  • Colleges with a coordinated plan, including food pantries, SNAP enrollment, meal-swipe sharing, and outreach activities, will see a decrease in the food insecurity rate among students (Health Affairs)
  • Research has shown that food insecurity for students has detrimental effects on academic performance (Health Affairs)
  • Students who are food insecure are more likely to experience stress and depression (Health Affairs)
  • Freshmen are especially vulnerable to food insecurity (Health Affairs)
  • Key contributing factors include: 1) financial insecurity, 2) housing insecurity, 3) work or family obligation, and 4) student loan debt (Health Affairs)
  • Many two- and four-year institutions have a website where students can access SNAP enrollment assistance, but there are many strict regulations such as working 20 hours per week many college students do not meet (Health Affairs)
SNAP Program Access
84%
Louisiana's rate of participation in SNAP
Who is affected most?
Children, seniors, communities of color, rural communities, and women (Feeding Louisiana)
Solutions
  • Optimize operations: Explore partnerships with the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services and the Louisiana Department of Health to increase participation in food-related public benefits such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program
  • Assess programs and determine how to scale:
    • Reduce barriers to enrollment for existing public benefits with a focus on high-risk populations: Children, elderly and college-age students
    • Automate enrollment with easier electronic sign up to all programs
    • Innovative food access models: Home delivery, partnership opportunities
    • Health insurance food plan and nutrition benefits
  • Affect policy: Support the Louisiana Anti-Hunger Coalition, Board of Regents and Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services on legislative priorities
  • Promote change:
    Promote and endorse existing SNAP/WIC programs:
    • Educate 65+ population on ESAP
    • Educate women on WIC

    • Promote and endorse existing programs funded by USDA and administered by the Louisiana Department of Education Division of Nutrition Support to expand dinner, summer and weekend meal support for students

    • Endorse Louisiana Board of Regents Hunger-Free Campus plan
Where do I find out more?
Download our Healthy State Fact Sheet on Food Security