Hunger and the Economy: The true cost of food insecurity is a lot higher than we realize

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Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: The cost is high, but investing in solutions can improve nutritional outcomes long-term. Research shows investing $1.2 billion annually for five years would generate annual benefits of US$15.3 billion, a benefit-to-cost ratio of almost 13-to-1, and would result in better health, fewer deaths and increased future earnings (State of Food and Agriculture, 2013).

So far, we’ve looked at the mental and physical health effects that come with chronic hunger. We’ve also looked at just how hungry our Texas neighborhoods are. But what about the effects food insecurity has on our economy?

There have been several studies and reports published that analyze the economic effect of hunger, malnutrition, food insecurity and any other name people use when talking about people who do not have access to consistent, affordable and nutritious food. In a column on TribTalk, the Perryman Group, an economic and financial analysis firm based in Waco, discusses the economic burden in Texas and says, “Hunger is, in fact, a pocketbook issue that hurts every corner of our economy. These costs multiply as they work their way through the economy and are borne by society through excessive and avoidable outlays for health care and education and diminished output.”

The cost of hunger isn’t just the cost of food. People who are food insecure have an increased incidence and severity of disease, which increases healthcare costs. Their health and education suffer, reducing productivity and lifetime earnings. As long as there is food insecurity, the costs will continue to grow.

In 2014 alone, the Perryman group estimates that food insecurity cost $44.2 billion in expenditures, $21.3 billion in gross product and almost 239,500 jobs in 2014.

That’s a big chunk of change.

 

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