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The Invisible Epidemic: Food Insecurity Among America’s Working Population

PRESS RELEASE: August 4, 2023

In recent years, the American workplace has undergone significant changes, with terms like “the Great Resignation” and “quiet quitting” becoming commonplace. However, beneath these visible shifts lies a less discussed but equally critical issue: the rising tide of food insecurity among workers. This problem, though not new, has been exacerbated by the economic upheavals of the last few years, including the Global Financial Crisis and the Great Recession.

The facade of professional success often masks the reality of food insecurity, a challenge I personally faced early in my career in the financial services industry. Despite appearing successful, I, like many others, struggled with the uncertainty of where my next meal would come from. This experience is not unique to me or to those in the financial sector; it is a systemic issue affecting workers across various industries.

The current economic climate, characterized by rising costs, stagnant wages, and the looming threat of another recession, is causing history to repeat itself in the workforce. Even before the recent spike in food prices, 17.2% of fully employed individuals reported experiencing food insecurity. This situation is particularly alarming in the workplace, where empty plates and malnourished minds should have no place.

The private sector has the potential to address this issue, and doing so could have a significant impact on our workforce, organizations, and country. The United States has always struggled with the full scale of our food insecurity crisis, a problem that has intensified in recent years due to the pandemic and an uncertain economy.

Food insecurity is closely tied to the nation’s economy. This year, demand for support at regional food banks soared as layoffs increased and food prices continued to rise. This trend is likely to persist as millions of households stop receiving the extra federal SNAP benefits granted during the pandemic. With the economy showing signs of slowing down, food inflation is outpacing overall inflation. A January 2023 survey of SNAP users found that 29% had skipped meals, nearly a third had eaten less to manage food costs, and almost a quarter had visited a food bank.

Our team witnessed the impact of food insecurity while volunteering with the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. We served a diverse group of community members, but our efforts were just a small contribution to the immense challenge faced by food banks nationwide.

Addressing the full scale of our nation’s food insecurity crisis requires an understanding of the powerful role food plays in our health and society. Over the past few decades, entire industries have been created to encourage healthy diets and improve overall well-being. However, meaningful conversations about how food affects the workplace are lacking in the U.S., which lags other nations in this regard.

In over 30 countries, employee meal vouchers are either nationally mandated or a common practice, highlighting the importance of ensuring access to quality, healthy food for workers. Feeding employees is not just a cost; it’s an investment in their well-being and the resilience of organizations. Ensuring employees have access to quality meals provides peace of mind, a better quality of life, and a higher-performing workforce.

As we move beyond the pandemic, it’s time to address America’s ongoing epidemic: food insecurity in the workplace. Solving this issue can have a measurable impact on the well-being and long-term viability of America’s workforce, while also reducing stress and costs on our healthcare system.

The Invisible Epidemic: Food Insecurity Among America’s Working Population
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