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Nutrition and Public Health

Last Published: 07/29/2016

USDA and public health organizations are partners in health

Public health providers across the spectrum, from individual physicians to community clinics and hospitals, are realizing that treating food insecurity and poor nutrition as a health issue can lead to better health outcomes for patients, improvements in community health, and cost savings. Increasingly, non-profit hospitals are engaging in proactive work to address food insecurity and nutrition, not only among their own patients, but more broadly as a part of their “community benefit” programs to promote population health in the communities where they are located. 

These programs are leveraging and increasing the impact of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service.  They use our nation’s core nutrition programs to address food insecurity and improve nutrition.

New models are emerging that view hunger as a health issue

There are clear associations between food insecurity and poor health status, just like there are between food insecurity and lower scores on physical and mental health exams.  Those living in food insecure households consume fewer servings of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and more sugar, fat, and salt.  These dietary shortfalls are linked to chronic diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Given their vulnerability, the elderly and children suffer the greatest impact.