The Cumberland County Food Security Council is grateful to Dan Strauss and everyone in our community who refuses to ignore the problem of hunger. In a Jan. 25 letter to the Maine Sunday Telegram (“Can we just call it ‘hunger,’ not ‘food insecurity’?”), Mr. Strauss expressed concern about using the term “food insecurity.”

“Food security” came into use in the 1990s, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture defined it as “access, at all times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members.” The USDA developed a census survey that quantifies how many people in our country are on a continuum of limited food access.

It is an authentic representation of the realities of hunger in the U.S. It reveals lack of nutritious food as a function of limited income. It measures how many people are at risk of hunger and reveals the number of people living with the constant fear that they don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

In short, “hunger” suggests that a person simply needs to eat, while “food insecurity” implies the stress related to hunger and identifies the risk of not having enough food. A food-secure household is not simply fed – it is free from the fear of hunger and not forced into unthinkable options (heat or eat) or short-sighted decisions (cheap, quick calories versus more nourishing choices).

The most recent research update revealed a troubling trend over the past 10 years. Of the 50 states, Maine has experienced the second-largest increase in people experiencing very low food security.

This research helps us understand the problem and holds us all accountable to find better solutions. Together, we can make different choices as a community to make sure everyone has enough healthy food to thrive.