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Food insecurity in minority communities

Food insecurity is among the range of inequities facing minorities and people of color that can affect health and well-being over a lifetime.

April 01, 2024

Food insecurity in minority communities

Lack of access to nutritious foods is linked to a wide range of adverse outcomes including poor health, lower academic achievement in children, poor maternal health and higher rates of chronic illness and disease.

Food insecurity and poor health outcomes have long been connected and research shows access to proper nutrition greatly differs between race, ethnicity, geography and socioeconomic status. Black and Latino individuals experience food insecurity at a rate over ten times that of white, non-Hispanic individuals. And among food-insecure families, they spend 20% more in total health care expenditures compared to families who are food secure.

While every community experiences food insecurity, minority groups are impacted at a higher rate and face unique challenges in having reliable access to proper nutrition.

The challenges

Food insecurity rates are often related to other challenges. Health and food inequities are commonly influenced by Social Determinants of Health (SDOH), which include financial security, access to food, housing and employment.


Nearly 38 million people live in poverty in America. As with other at-risk groups, including rural populations and older Americans, poverty is a central contributor to food insecurity for people of color.

Those living in poverty by race and ethnicity:

  • 9% of whites
  • 17% of Hispanics or Latinos
  • 17% of Blacks
  • 25% of Native Americans

Disparities in hourly wages mean that people of color bring home less money than their white counterparts. For every dollar a white worker earns, a Black individual earns $0.76, a Hispanic or Latino individual earns $0.73 and a Native American worker earns $0.77. These lower incomes mean that families have less purchasing power to buy the nutritious foods that support a healthy lifestyle.

Food deserts

It’s estimated that more than 23 million people live in food deserts, or areas where access to affordable, nutritious food is limited. In a food desert, supermarkets are more than a mile away in an urban area or over ten miles away in a rural area.

Food swamps

People of color who live in urban areas may also live in food swamps, where sources of low-quality food, including fast-food restaurants and convenience stores stocking mainly junk food, outnumber stores that sell healthy alternatives. And it’s by design. Fast-food restaurants are more likely to open in communities with higher concentrations of minorities and low-income households.


Food insecurity is a key factor in poor health, and poor health can contribute to food insecurity. This cycle is particularly acute for minorities, who are more likely to have a major chronic disease compared to white adults. Critically, minority communities generally have less access to quality health care and there are fewer doctors’ offices, hospitals and clinics in poor or rural areas.

The solutions

To help food-insecure populations, improving access to healthier food is critical. Several food programs and interventions are currently working to provide solutions and increase the availability of healthy, nutritious food for more Americans.

School meal programs

School districts around the nation run the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) for low-income students. The program provides low-cost or free lunches to over 30 million children each school day. It’s a start at addressing food insecurity, but studies also show that school budgets in minority communities are lower. That means they spend less per student and don’t have appropriate funding to purchase healthy food choices for their students. Meanwhile, schools in affluent neighborhoods can generally afford healthier options.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

On average, 41.2 million people utilize SNAP, where participating households receive around $343 a month for food benefits. Based on today’s grocery costs, that amount doesn’t go far enough for a family of four, and it can’t cover enough nutritious food to stay healthy. So, while SNAP provides some support, more help is necessary to reduce food insecurity in low-income, minority families.

Public-private partnerships

Around the country, private companies and public organizations are collaborating to offer unique meal solutions to combat food insecurity for at-risk populations. For instance, health care organizations support their vulnerable members and lower health care utilization by offering nutrition support.

Mom's Meals® can help

Among the partners joining this mission is Mom’s Meals. We work with health plans and government organizations, including Medicare and Medicaid, to provide daily nutrition. Through our medically tailored home-delivered meal programs, we help address food insecurity and manage chronic conditions, which helps reduce health care costs.

For example, our long-term care program helps individuals maintain independence at home and avoid institutional care. It is designed to provide refrigerated home-delivered, medically tailored meals to the elderly, disabled and individuals in poor health, who are eligible for economic assistance through a Medicaid Waiver or other government-funded nutrition programs.

We offer nine-condition-specific menus and 60+ delicious ready-to-heat-and-eat meal options designed by registered dietitians and crafted by professional chefs in USDA-inspected kitchens. We make nutritious food more accessible and convenient, delivering direct to homes nationwide.