Study Reveals How Lack Of Technology May Impact Food Insecurity

During the pandemic, food insecurity has plagued college campuses, immigrant communities, and caused staggeringly high rates of food insecurity around the world. The unmoving wages of low income jobs and mass unemployment rates that have emerged in the post-pandemic world only further perpetuate food insecurity on both a global and alarmingly domestic scale.

Today, technological literacy might be the most important language in the world to know. According to recent studies, it might even save your life. What happens, then, when your access to computers, the internet, or education about how to effectively use them is limited? And, how is it related to the pandemic?

Researchers from the University of Texas at San Antonio via the American Society for Nutrition published a new study that sought to answer these questions. The study analyzed food insecurity particularly caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the types of communities it affected the most. Researchers surveyed 557 older adults who participated in meal-access programs in November 2020, and found that 42% reported being food insecure, per EurekAlert.

During the pandemic as never before, access to technology meant access to life-saving resources. The study ultimately concluded that the problems of food insecurity and social isolation hit older persons harder, as this demographic is often restricted from access to technology and education about how to efficiently operate it. And older communities aren't the only groups at risk, either.

The short answer is: it makes it worse

According to professor Di Fang of the University of Arkansas, the psychological effects of food insecurity can be detrimental. People experiencing food insecurity are at a 257% higher risk for anxiety and a 253% higher risk for depression, via BMC Public Health. Along with these, the University of Texas study also concluded that lack of access to technology during the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated poorer mental well-being due to the social cut-off during the pandemic's unusually prolonged period of isolation.

Another study led by Rachel F. McCloud of the Center for Community-Based Research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston found similar results. The team of researchers monitored the online activities and technological efficiency of a sample of users from low socioeconomic statuses (via the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association). Similarly to the University of Texas study, McCloud's study found that the impacts of lack of technology also extended to poorer urban communities. Due to internet connectivity issues and lower average technological literacy, people trying to access health care information via the internet were placed at a substantial disadvantage to their technologically-fluent peers with access to higher-quality equipment with fewer glitches and subsequent setbacks.

The study concluded that "communication inequalities deepen health disparities" as different communities are granted access to crucial resources and other communities are not. During the pandemic, in the U.S., socioeconomic demographics determined the quality of health care at a person's disposal.