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Let's Talk About It: Food Insecurity and Mental Health

By Jan Jones, Director, Public Policy, Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC

May is National Mental Health Month, which makes it a good time to talk about the connections between food insecurity and poor mental health.


Nadia, a young mom who recently began attending Second Harvest’s periodic food distributions, explained it well. Her husband is out of work with a back injury, and they've got no family in the area. "It's been difficult. I'm anxious and worried all the time. It’s not just about the physical part of hunger; there's anxiety, there's depression, that's part of it, too."

Nadia hopes her family's SNAP application is approved soon and is "beyond grateful" their landlord is working with them, but as she said, "It’s going to be rough until he is back to work full-time.”


A recent CDC study reported that individuals experiencing food insecurity are over 250% more likely to battle anxiety and depression than their counterparts who are not. Additional research by the NIH and others has also documented that food insecurity is associated with psychological distress and poor mental health outcomes, including depression. People literally worry themselves sick about feeding their families, and this impacts not only their health but other aspects of their lives, including workplace productivity.

Our work at Second Harvest Food Bank, in combination with federal nutrition programs such as SNAP (The Supplemental Nutrition Program) and WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) is a huge help for families who are struggling to afford all of the food they need in the face of rising costs for food, housing, and child care. WIC, in particular, helps to ensure infants and children are getting the nutrition and care they need right from the start.


Cutting federal nutrition programs or making them harder to access is not just a matter of missing meals. It could also seriously impact people's mental health and ability to perform at work or school. We need policies that support everyone's right to good food and good mental health. Because everyone deserves to eat and nobody should ever have to choose between their health and their next meal.


We invite you to follow this blog and our social channels for periodic updates and opportunities to take action regarding our nation’s nutrition programs.

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Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC

3655 Reed St. 

Winston-Salem, NC 27107

Tel: 336-784-5770

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