FRIDAY, Feb. 2, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- A new study finds that nearly one-third of households in Columbus, Ohio have difficulty getting enough food or obtaining healthy food.
The findings suggest that food insecurity in the United States is worse than thought, according to Ohio State University researchers.
Families that are food insecure have limited access to quality food, sometimes don't have enough to eat, and often rely on food banks and other sources for food.
For the study, the researchers surveyed more than 650 households in an economically and racially diverse area in Columbus, the state capital.
"Almost a third [32 percent] of the households were food insecure, and more than 16 percent had very low food security, meaning they were skipping meals, at risk for experiencing hunger and probably missing work and school, and suffering health problems as a result," lead author Michelle Kaiser said in a university news release.
"Previous estimates based on county-level census data would have suggested about half as many households didn't have enough food or adequate access to food," she added. Kaiser is an assistant professor of social work.
The survey also found that 26 percent of household were not satisfied with their ability to buy food easily. Twenty-seven percent said it was hard to find fresh fruits and vegetables, though 86 percent said good nutrition was "important" or "very important" to them when shopping.
Along with going to supermarkets, most people in the study regularly shopped for food at other stores close to home. Among those with food insecurity, many went to corner stores, drug stores and other places with limited food offerings, especially fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods, the researchers reported.
"In a lot of cases, this is where people are going to buy their food on a regular basis because that's the store they can get to," said Kaiser, who noted that traditional grocery stores are abandoning low-income areas.
While this study was conducted in Columbus, the findings likely apply to other U.S. cities, Kaiser added.
The study was published recently in the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition.
Feeding America has more on hunger and food insecurity.