Nutrition Insecurity in San Diego County

Hunger is considered an invisible issue – you can’t tell from looking at someone that they’re unsure where their next meal will come from. It’s easy to forget that good nutrition and food options are not a part of everyone’s life in our region.

Unfortunately, new data shows that there’s still lots of work to be done, especially among seniors and Black and Latinx communities in San Diego.

Defining Food and Nutrition Insecurity

Food insecurity is “a lack of consistent access to enough food for every person in a household to live an active, healthy life.” Sometimes this is only a temporary situation, but it can also be long term. Food insecurity is often tied to other issues like a lack of affordable housing, low-wage jobs, long-term unemployment, high medical costs and acute health problems. These social determinants of health together can all contribute to a wide range of health outcomes and risks.

Nutrition insecurity specifically is defined as a child, adult or senior who can’t rely on three nutritious meals a day. In San Diego, statistics show that escaping nutrition insecurity requires an annual income of at least:

A Closer Look at the Data

Based on the San Diego annual income criteria, San Diego Hunger Coalition determined in their recent State of Hunger Report that nearly 1 in 4 (755,000 people) are nutrition insecure. Breaking the data down further, we see that food and nutrition insecurity affects a cross section of San Diego’s population:

Equity Issues

When looking closer at nutrition insecurity across diverse San Diego communities, there is clearly an equity issue when it comes to the disproportionate impact of hunger in specific communities.

A quick glance at the graph shows Latinx/Hispanic and African American/Black communities in particular struggle with providing three nutritious meals a day for their families, followed by Native American, Asian and other groups. White communities have the lowest percentage of food insecurity in the region.

Reasons for Nutrition Insecurity

The current state of the economy is the largest factor contributing to nutrition insecurity in San Diego. From grocery to fuel prices to a lack of high-paying jobs, families are struggling to make ends meet. Here are some of the contributing economic factors in San Diego County, according to San Diego Hunger Coalition:

Support Services Available

Feeding San Diego

In San Diego, there are a number of support services available to families in need. While these services don’t completely close the “meal gap” in the region, they are making a difference. Provided or supported by San Diego Hunger Coalition, important services include:

Still More to be Done

Despite all the services available in San Diego County, hunger and nutritional needs still affect thousands of families. Looking at data from June of 2022 in the recently released San Diego Hunger Coalition State of Hunger report, there is still a “meal gap” for food assistance.

In June 2022, food assistance provided over 29 million meals across all programs, meeting 75% of the estimated need for food assistance. However, it was determined that another 9.9 million meals would have been needed in the month of June for San Diego County’s population to be nutrition secure.

If you or someone you know needs food assistance, contact SD Hunger Coalition or

Learn more about San Diego Foundation efforts around food and nutrition insecurity.

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