Written by: Javier P.

Securing access to nutritious food has a ripple effect on the entire community and can lead to improvements in the local economy, health, education, and social well-being. Safe and easy access to food affects every area of life. All aspects associated with a strong community, such as resilience and unity, significantly depend on the accessibility of basic needs. If we want to develop safe and successful communities, we must secure basic needs!

One of the big areas in which food insecurity can impact a community is its safety. Some studies have shown that for every 1% of food insecurity, the crime rate increases by 13%. These reasons stem from issues caused by a lack of access to food. Stress, anxiety, and depression can set in when a diet lacks ample nutrition. These can result in unrest in a community. The well-being of a community is heavily dependent on their access to food.

The link between food insecurity and crime

Understanding the connection between food insecurity and crime can be challenging. Children are heavily influenced by the environments they are raised in, and factors such as food insecurity and underdeveloped communities can significantly impact these environments. One of the main reasons for the close relationship between these two issues is the lack of basic needs. Food insecurity creates stress, especially for children, who may experience uncertainty about where their next meal will come from, leading to negative effects on their mental and physical well-being. Additionally, when food is available, it may lack nutritional value. Cheap, low-quality foods like chips, sweets, and soda often become go-to when the body is stressed.  For many individuals, food insecurity becomes part of a harmful cycle that can continue into adulthood. The culmination of this stress is what can lead to an increase in crime. Food insecurity, especially during childhood, can lead to children committing crimes as adults because, after years of hunger and uncertainty, crime can appear to be a way out of that cycle. No child should ever grow up in that environment.

Food insecurity also creates a vulnerability that human traffickers look to prey on. Traffickers will leverage a family’s need and trick parents into sending their children to “work,” where they will actually be trafficked. In other cases, they will promise food in exchange for sexual services. 

How food changes the story

When nutritious food is accessible, it can create a drastically different trajectory. Access to food can alleviate the stress of not knowing where their next meal will come from. This can help reduce the stress of consuming low-quality foods and replace them with nutritious options, significantly impacting mood and resilience. Diets that are rich in fruit and vegetables can help reduce stress. Nutrients and vitamins can help protect the brain and body from anxiety and depression and improve mood. Lastly, food can help secure communities from the trap of human traffickers. When a community has its most basic needs met, traffickers are left with nothing to leverage. Food can completely change the safety within a community both in the present and the future. 

Food is just one of the key basic needs that impact communities. To learn more about basic needs and their importance to securing communities, click on one of the blogs below! 

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