In about 3 weeks without food, an individual will starve to death. But that doesn’t account for the long-term damage that can happen to a body when food quality is subpar or if food isn’t consistently available. Forty-one million Americans struggle with food accessibility and hunger due to a lack of resources. Financial Education Benefits Center (FEBC), a membership benefits company, can provide select discounts on groceries to make healthy eating more accessible, but that won’t solve the overall problem at hand.

“A lot of people who talk about how to get the most out of grocery shopping talk about not shopping while hungry because when you’re hungry, you’re more likely to buy excess amounts of food that might wind up just being thrown away later,” said Jennifer Martinez, manager at FEBC. Out of 133 billion pounds of food thrown away every year by the United States, grocery stores are responsible for 10 percent of that. Because of how the grocery stores are run in an effort to keep customers shopping exclusively with them, less-than-perfect-looking fruits and vegetables are thrown away. Items that have passed their sell-by date, as opposed to a use-by date, are also frequently tossed because it is assumed consumers will not want that item that has passed its height of freshness. The amounts of produce thrown away by grocery stores does not account for the massive amounts of food thrown away by farms before it even gets to the stores because it did not pass cosmetic inspections.

The lack of available food for struggling communities does not spring from a strict food shortage. It’s more related to edible – but less than perfect – food being thrown away before it has a chance to be sold, both in grocery stores and in restaurants, or prices of living continually going up without wages following suit. FEBC offers its members discounts in an effort to make financial wellness more achievable, but certain struggles will need greater assistance on a larger scale to be alleviated. “If people don’t eat or don’t have access to affordable food, they don’t survive. It’s that simple, but solving the large-scale problem that is going on in America is going to take a lot more work,” said Martinez.

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