5 Facts About Hunger in Tennessee

This year, nearly 1 million Tennesseans will worry about where their next meal will come from. They are food-insecure, which means they struggle to provide or eat enough each day.

Featured Image for 10.16.19 Blog 300x186 - 5 Facts About Hunger in TennesseeBut hunger means more than starving for a few days. It can lead to malnourishment, impairing children’s development and leading to chronic diseases. Hungry kids can’t learn, weakening a child’s foundation for success in school, work, and life. As such, hunger is a health, education, and financial stability problem.

Experts call it food insecurity, which is defined as having problems getting food, a shortage of food in the house, or reduced food intake (i.e., there might not be dinner every night this week because payday is Friday).

Here are a few facts that may surprise you:

  • 1 in 7 Tennesseans are hungry. And when we break this down, 1 in 5 children struggle with hunger, which effects their development and potential long-term success. Overall, 13% of people in Middle Tennesseans are food insecure.
  • About 30% of college students in the South Appalachia region (which includes Tennessee) are food insecureA new study published by Temple University and the Wisconsin HOPE Lab highlights some staggering stats: 36% of American college students say they are food insecure. It’s more prevalent among college students of color, up to 57%.
  • 39% of Tennessee households struggle to afford the basic necessities of housing, childcare, food, health care, and transportation. We may think those in rural communities aren’t hungry because they can grow their own food. However, 15% of people in rural areas are hungry. Often, they don’t have access to a grocery stores or transportation.
  • Food-insecure people are more prone to obesity. Not having a grocery store close by (and limited transportation) forces people to shop at places that sell mostly packaged and prepared foods – higher in calories, but lower in nutrition.
  • 60% of households led by older Americans must choose between buying groceries or paying utility bills. Older adults across Tennessee are having to make hard decisions about how to expend their resources– decisions that can impact their day-to-day health and overall wellbeing.

Why are so many people hungry? For many, unexpected life events, health crises, or underemployment can contribute to why they don’t have enough food every day.

United Way partners with local organizations such as Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee and GraceWorks Ministries to address hunger in our communities. We also collaborate with many corporate partners and civic groups to implement Full Tummies, Warm Hears– a holiday food drive that provides meals to over 800 local families.

So what can you do to fight hunger? Here are 3 easy ways to become part of the solution:

  • Get informed – Check out videos, infographics, and stories here and share the link with your friends and family on social media.
  • Get involved – Donate your time, talents, or money in support of Full Tummies, Warm Hearts. You can also connect with Second Harvest about volunteer opportunities.
  • Get help – If you or someone you know does not have enough food to eat, contact GraceWorks Ministries (615-794-9055) or call 211 to find available resources in your community.


Content Source: Rachel Perry, United Way Worldwide, Strategic Communications Team; Feeding America; The University of Tennessee/Current Studies in Nutrition


Oct 16, 2019 | Health