How Could This Be?

— Written By Renee Diggs-Neal and last updated by Nicki Ragland

Hunger in the United States is real. One in six Americans’ struggle to get the food they need, which is a direct relationship to our food insecurity. What is that? Food insecurity is defined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as a person or persons experiencing a lack of access to enough food for an active healthy life. In North Carolina alone, there is a food insecurity rate of 19.3 percent about 1,863,330 people. In Robeson County, the food insecurity rate is 23.5 percent or 31,200 people. Food insecurity is linked to the poverty rate, unemployment rate, single parent, families, and/or high prices of fresh food. Whichever indicator exists for a person’s life, it makes for hard decisions forcing many families to choose between grocery shopping, paying bills, seeing a doctor, or buying gas.

There are health effects due to food insecurities such as being overweight or obese, chronic diseases, and even malnutrition. How could this be? One factor is that most people secure the cheapest and most convenient meal. These meals are most likely to be low in nutrients and high in calories, fats and sugars resulting in a malnourished diet. There are a number of causes of malnutrition such as an inadequate or unbalanced diet, digestion or absorption problems, certain medical conditions, not eating enough food, or lack of vitamins in the diet. To prevent most forms of malnutrition, people basically need to eat a well-balanced diet.

To start eating a well-balanced diet, choose to build a healthy plate. You can do this by carefully choosing the food on your plate. For example, by filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables, making at least half your grain products whole grain, and eating small lean pieces of meat, beans or seafood, you are designing a well balanced diet. Don’t forget about your drink too. By drinking 1 percent or skim milk, 100 percent fruit juice, and plenty of water you are making healthier choices, which supports overall health.

Many residents don’t even realize how easy it is to acquire fresh, reasonably priced, local fruits and vegetables. The Robeson County Farmers’ Market, located at 8th and Elm Street in downtown Lumberton, is a great source and offers a variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables. If you can’t get there during their operating hours the Farmers’ Market also has a golden nugget called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). This is a program where you buy a share of vegetables for five weeks and someone shops for you, selecting top quality, local fruits and vegetables that you pick up once a week. To learn more about the CSA program call Mack Johnson, Extension Horticulture Agent, at (910) 671-3276. To learn more about building a healthy plate, check out

If you are someone who works with limited-resource audiences, and would like to learn more about healthy eating, please contact Renee Diggs-Neal, Adult Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program Assistant with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, at 671-3276 by E-mail at or visit our website at