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Food insecurity and disability

The United States is often seen as the “land of plenty.” Starving and malnourished children are a thing of the past , something from the Depression-Era Dust Bowl or Sub-Saharan Africa. In recent years, the concern has shifted to the worries of childhood obesity, and obesity in general, as it carries with it a host of health concerns and disabling conditions like Type-2 diabetes.

So a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture may come as something of a surprise, with its finding that 15 percent of American household had difficulty obtaining enough food during a year. They highlight that disabilities can increase the risk of food insecurity, due to the combination of inability to work and earn income and high medical expenses. Programs like Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) play an important role of providing that necessary safety net for disabled workers.

The USDA notes that there are a host of reasons why the disabled suffer from food insecurity. Disabilities may limit the type and amount of work a person can do, or in the case of someone receiving benefits from the SSDI program, they are entirely unable to work.

If one person is disabled, their spouse often has to take on increased care giving responsibilities and this limits the time they can work, further reducing the household’s income.

Disabilities often bring with them additional medical expenses, ranging from higher bills for prescription medicine to medical devices, like wheelchairs. And some chronic conditions require frequent visits to the doctor or other health care professional, adding more expenses and taking more time.

Source: USDA, “Disability Is an Important Risk Factor for Food Insecurity,” Alisha Coleman-Jensen, February 12, 2013

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