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Healthy Food

Food and Nutrition Security

While keeping the food supply safe, as USDA does each day, we must also tackle both food and nutrition insecurity. USDA’s nutrition programs are the most far-reaching tools available to ensure all Americans have access to healthy, affordable food. In FY22, the USDA will build on the innovation required by our COVID-19 pandemic response, as well as the historic investments in food and nutrition assistance we made in FY21. We will also invest in bold solutions that enhance food safety, improve our nutrition programs, and reduce both food and nutrition insecurity. Without question, promoting food and nutrition security is a critical ingredient to recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring racial equity, rebuilding the economy, addressing the impacts of climate change, providing open markets and fair trade, and reinvigorating a competitive workforce.

Food security for a household means access by all members at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. Food security includes at a minimum:

  • The ready availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods
  • Assured ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways (that is, without resorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging, stealing, or other coping strategies)

The concept of nutrition security works to better recognize the co-existence of food insecurity and diet-related diseases and disparities. That is, nutrition security means having consistent access, availability, and affordability of foods and beverages that promote well-being and prevent (and if needed, treat) disease, particularly among racial/ethnic minority populations, lower incomes populations, and rural and remote populations. Nutrition security builds on and complements efforts to address food security among all Americans but recognizes not all Americans are maintaining an active, healthy life and emphasizes the importance of taking an equity lens to efforts to ensure access, availability, and affordability to foods and beverages among populations often managing the co-existence of food insecurity and diet-related chronic diseases.

Consumer Government Benefits explains how to apply for and find social support programs, including nutrition assistance. is a USDA sponsored website that offers credible information to help you make healthful eating choices.

Nutrition Professional Resources – The USDA National Agricultural Library’s Food and Nutrition Information Center provides access to a range of  resources from both government and non-government sources.

Nutrition Security Research ResourcesThe USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) conducts economic research on numerous topics central to food and nutrition security and provides links to selected ERS research and resources on these topics.

Importance of Food & Nutrition Security

Food insecurity creates enormous strain on worker productivity, healthcare spending, and military readiness and disproportionately impacts racial/ethnic minority populations, lower income populations, and rural and remote populations. The USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) noted food insecurity rates peaked at 14.9% in 2011 and dropped slowly to 10.5% in 2019 – illustrating the length of time – about 8 years – that it took to return to pre-recession (2007) levels. During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the US Census Bureau reported how food insecurity and food insufficiency was a challenge and disproportionately impacted communities of color, lower-income communities, and rural/remote communities. Often, food insecurity and diet-related chronic diseases co-exist. Diet-related chronic diseases are the leading causes of death in this country and disproportionately affect communities of color, lower-income communities, and rural/remote communities. Ensuring food and nutrition security for all Americans will require a better understanding of the complex causes and corresponding solutions of food insecurity and diet-related illnesses and disparities.

According to the 7th edition of the National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends report, during the next 20 years, the impacts of climate change could potentially intensify risks to food, water, health, and energy security. Evidence indicates the increased temperature, drought, rainfall variability, extreme weather, and ocean acidification associated with climate change is related to reduced food production, altered nutrient content, inequitable access to healthy foods and beverages, and high rates of food insecurity. Therefore, addressing food and nutrition insecurity is interrelated with challenges and opportunities with our agricultural and food systems. Ensuring sustainable agricultural systems will require a convergence of science and technology to accelerate a transformation of our food system to shorten supply chains, optimize agricultural productivity, minimize negative environmental impacts, and ensure a resilient, flexible food system that is safe, affordable, and nutritious.

NIFA’s Impact

NIFA recognizes nutrition as a cost-effective approach to address many of the societal, environmental, and economic issues faced across the globe today. NIFA works to ensure a safe, nutritious, and secure food supply while also developing, delivering, and disseminating evidence-based nutrition education and promotion to prevent chronic diseases, improve health, and prioritize nutrition security. NIFA partners with the Land-Grant University System and government, private, and non-profit organizations to support science. Our agency also invests in developing nutrition scientists across all stages of professional development to use an integrated approach to prioritizing nutrition security and ensuring sustainable agricultural systems through research, education, and extension. NIFA invests more than $129 million in research, education, extension, and innovation to advance USDA’s goal to tackle food and nutrition insecurity.

NIFA aims to help prioritize nutrition security by focusing on:

  • Using Innovative Trans-Disciplinary Solutions to Promote Healthy Eating Patterns and Behaviors to tackle the “whole picture” regarding underlying factors and most promising strategies.
  • Harnessing a Holistic Research Agenda, from Farm to Fork working along every link of the food chain to build a more sustainable, resilient, equitable and nourishing food system, including:
    • Production (e.g., agroecology, community and home food gardening, urban agriculture, farmers’ markets, regional food systems)
    • Preparation (e.g., ensuring sufficient, safe, and nutritious food preparation in culturally, contextually, and economically sensitive ways including disaster preparedness)
    • Promotion (e.g., Fostering a circular economy in rural areas by promoting local and regional food supply chains)
    • Consumption (e.g., enabling positive and sustained healthy eating behavior to decrease the health and financial burden of diet-related non-communicable diseases and health disparities)
    • Increase access to and improve the nutritional quality of our federal nutrition safety net
    • Disposal (e.g., limit food waste while ensuring food safety)
  • Integrating with Climate-Smart Agriculture on transformative discoveries, education, and engagement.
  • Engaging Individual, Family, and Community Agency and Capacity Building

The following NIFA Topic pages further explain our efforts to prioritize nutrition security (stay tuned a few pages are under development):

Key NIFA nutrition security programs include:

NIFA also supports additional programs that help prioritize nutrition security:

Learn more listening to our NIFA Nutrition Security Webinar Series.

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