Over the past several years, Wisconsin-like the country as a whole-has seen an unprecedented jump in share of households who struggle to meet their food needs. During 2008-2010, almost 12 % of households in the state were food insecure, meaning they lacked assured access to sufficient food for a healthy and active life. Wisconsin's food insecurity rate during 2008-2010 increased by 30 percent from the previous 3-year period, and is 40 percent higher than a decade ago.
Ensuring food security for all households requires a foundation of four strong legs:
Food security is fundamentally linked to family economic security. Communities that offer sufficient jobs at living wages, affordable housing and health care, adequate transportation options, and an adequate safety net can help to ensure food security.
To ensure food security, families need adequate access to healthy and affordable food. Communities that have a range of affordable and accessible food outlets and healthy food choices-including options ranging from supermarkets to farmers markets to community gardens-are best able to support food security for all households.
Federal nutrition programs are a vital source of food for economically vulnerable families, and an important defense against food insecurity. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), the School Breakfast Program, and the Summer Food Program have all been found to enhance food security. Communities that maximize access to these and other nutrition assistance programs can increase the ability of vulnerable households to maintain food security even in difficult economic times.
A strong and accessible emergency / charitable food safety net is also critical for families at risk of hunger. For many families, food pantries and other charitable food programs play a vital role in meeting food needs. Communities that have sufficient emergency food resources-at convenient locations and times, with adequate supply and variety, and offered with dignity-can help struggling families maintain secure access to sufficient and healthy food.