When was the last time you stopped to think about food insecurity in Houston? My guess is not recently.

Many people associate food insecurity with the generalized idea of poverty, but the reality is, there’s much more to it. While it’s true that food insecurity is directly related to a lack of food, there’s a difference between having access to nutritious foods and having access to unhealthy foods.

Quality and quantity are both important factors.

salad, Healthy, Thai, homemade, Vegan, coconutbowl, kale, cabbage
Nicole Burnett

Food insecurity in Houston is prominent as 16% of Houstonians are considered food insecure, and Houston’s Third Ward contains a concentrated population of these individuals. Food insecurity affects the lifestyle, health, finances, and education of people in the Third Ward. 

Determinants of Food Insecurity 

Socioeconomic status plays a major role in food insecurity. A majority of Third Ward residents get trapped in this vicious cycle because of low income levels and the high cost of housing and food prices. It can be difficult and terrifying to find yourself deciding between paying the rent or buying healthy ingredients to make dinner. The majority of the time, people struggle to buy any food at all. 

tea, beer, money, coins, cash, dollars, currency, change
Anna Arteaga

Household structure is another determinant, as the number of dependents in a household will influence the financial capabilities of the family. According to Craig Gundersen, other factors like unemployment, prior health conditions or pre-existing disabilities, and a lack of financial management skills are disadvantages that increase the likelihood of food insecurity in Houston.   

Another challenge to obtaining healthy food in the Third Ward is a lack of access to public or private transportation. The Baker Institute survey conducted by Rice University discovered that only 14.83% of Third Ward residents left their neighborhood to obtain food. Therefore, proximity to grocery stores plays an important role in food insecurity. Because of this, the time associated with traveling, buying groceries, and cooking a healthy meal can be viewed as overly consuming. 

cereal, Aloe vera, herb, Trader Joe's, shopping basket, Market, Grocery
Caroline Ingalls


It's no surprise that limited access to nutritionally dense foods can lead to a plethora of health problems. A Rice University survey which collected data from 1,616 heads of household in the Third Ward found that there were prominent rates of diabetes, asthma, neck problems, and hypertension that were beyond the national averages. Without drastic lifestyle changes, these conditions can grow and lead to other chronic health issues like heart disease, hyperlipidemia, obesity, and even mental health problems

According to a health blog from Memorial Hermann, children who experience hunger at an early age are subjected to delayed development in their school years. They may have lower math and reading scores than their peers as well as shorter attention spans due to distractions. 

What Can You Do?

Because of COVID-19, food insecurity in Houston has become a growing problem. Third Ward residents are hit more severely because of the threat of being infected when going to grocery stores and because of limited operations at local food pantries. Here are some steps you can take to help out:

1. Educate Yourself

The first step is to educate yourself, and by reading this article, you've already gained more knowledge! 

2. Volunteer

–Volunteer with CrowdSource Rescue by making no-contact food deliveries to people across Houston, many of whom are disabled, elderly, and/or economically disadvantaged.

–Fundraise or donate money to the Houston Food Bank

–Donate to or volunteer in Second Servings of Houston's "Dinner's On Us" program which provides chef-prepared family dinner boxes (pasta, chicken n' biscuits, red beans and rice) to Houstonians through a contact-free distribution. 

sauce, pasta, vegetable, meat, spaghetti, macaroni, penne
Jake Popescu

–Donate to Can Do Houston as they implement sustainable, community initiatives that promote nutrition education and fitness classes.

3. Spread the Word 

The next best thing to educating yourself is educating others, so share your knowledge with your friends and family. Spread awareness about the food insecurity crisis in Houston's Third Ward, and get more people involved in the fight against it. 

Food insecurity in Houston is not only a plight that residents face “in the moment”. It affects the foundation of an individual’s lifestyle as it shapes his or her outlook on health and wellness, and it takes a toll on the younger individuals in the family by damaging their relationship with food.