Hunger Glossary

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Hunger Glossary from Seeds of Hope

  • Feeding Program: a federal, school or private program or agency that serves prepared food to hungry people.
  • Food Desert: a district, usually a low-income area, where healthy, nutritious food is difficult to obtain. The Economic Research Service of the USDA defines a food desert as a low-income census tract where a substantial number of residents has low access to a supermarket or large grocery store. The residents are often much closer to fast-food restaurants and convenience stores.
  • Food Rescue: the practice of obtaining prepared food from restaurants, packaging it according to health codes, and making it available to feeding programs.
  • Food Security: having enough food to be healthy and productive. The World Food Summit of 1996 defined food security as existing “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.” According to the UN World Health Organisation, food security is built on three pillars: food availability, food access and appropriate food use. Census workers in the US use the terms “high food security,” “marginal food security,” “low food security” and “very low food security.” According to the USDA, a household has very low food security if the food intake of one or more household members is reduced or disrupted at times during the year because the household lacks the money or other resources for food.
  • Food Sovereignty: a movement that seeks to establish the rights of those who grow food to determine what foods to grow, how food is grown, and how and by whom foods are produced, processed and distributed. It also seeks to provide fair compensation for those involved in bringing food to our tables. For those who eat (which is everybody), it is the right to know where your food comes from, how the food was produced, how safe and healthy it is, and who benefits from the food’s production and distribution. (See pages 3-9 of the summer 2012 issue of Hunger News & Hope for more about Food Sovereignty.)
  • Foodies: People who spend a significant amount of energy on gaining information about the ingredients, nutritional value and origin of food dishes. (See the story on page 11 of the summer 2012 issue of Hunger News & Hope for more about Foodies.)
  • Hunger: the body’s way of signaling that it is running short of food and needs to eat something. According to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP), the average person needs 1,200 calories a day to lead a healthy life.
  • Malnutrition/Undernutrition: a state in which the physical function of an individual is impaired by lack of nutrition, to the point where he or she can no longer maintain natural bodily capacities such as growth, pregnancy, lactation, learning abilities, physical work and resisting and recovering from disease. The term covers a range of problems: being dangerously thin (see “Underweight”), too short for one’s age (see “Stunting”), being deficient in specific vitamins or minerals, or being obese. A person can be obese and still be malnourished.
  • Protein energy malnutrition: a form of malnutrition measured not by how much food is eaten but by physical measurements of the body, such as weight, height, or age (see “Stunting,” “Wasting, “Underweight”).
  • SNAP: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly the Food Stamp Program), a federal program in the US administered by the USDA.
  • Stunting: a condition that reflects shortness-for-age. This is an indicator of chronic malnutrition and is calculated by comparing the height-for-age of a child with a reference population of well-nourished and healthy children.
  • Undernourishment: the status of people whose food intake does not include enough calories to meet minimum physiological needs. The term is a measure of a country’s ability to gain access to food and is normally derived from Food Balance Sheets prepared by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
  • Underweight: a state measured by comparing the weight-for-age of a child with a reference population of well-nourished and healthy children. It is estimated that the deaths of almost 4 million children aged less than five are associated with the underweight status of the children themselves or their mothers.
  • Urban Gardening: also known as urban horticulture or urban agriculture; the process of growing plants of all types and varieties in an urban environment. Some types of urban gardening include container gardening (the use of all kinds of containers for growing plants in city balconies or on patios), indoor gardening, community gardening, “guerilla” gardening (a somewhat subversive effort to grow plants in public spaces like vacant lots or highway medians), and roof gardening.
  • Wasting: a state reflecting a recent and severe process that has led to substantial weight loss, usually associated with starvation and/or disease. Wasting is calculated by comparing weight-for-height of a child with a reference population of well-nourished and healthy children. This measurement is often used to assess the severity of emergencies because it is strongly related to mortality.
  • WIC: The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, a federal program in the US administered by the USDA. The WIC program has been shown to save $5 in future social services for every $1 it spends.

—This glossary was printed in the summer 2012 issue of Hunger News & Hope and also in the Sacred Seasons 2012 Hunger Emphasis packet. To see this and other HNH issues, go to To see more worship resources, go to