A record conducted by Christian charity Bread for the World suggests that hunger and malnutrition is having a massively negative economic impact in the United States.
These two debilitating conditions reportedly cost the United States in the region of $160 billion per annum.
This figure can be attributed to the treatment of chronic health conditions.
The report outlines the dire consequences of food insecurity among the poorest American families, and paints a picture of a society in serious decline.
This latest report is suggested to be the first to ever apportion a significant share of the long-term cost of illnesses such as diabetes to a deficit of affordable, nutritious food.
It should be emphasised that access to such foodstuffs in the United States is clearly an economic issue, as the United States actually produces a surplus of food annually.
In 2010, exports of agricultural products in the United States were worth some $116 billion.
The diabetes epidemic in the US has already claimed millions of sufferers, and shows few signs of abating.
In 2012, 29.1 million Americans, or 9.3 per cent of the United States population, had diabetes.
Diabetes remained the seventh leading cause of death in the United States in 2010, mirroring a general trend in the Western world for this blood sugar condition to be expanding rapidly in the population.
Government statistics suggest that between 2008 and 2014 at least 48.1 million people a year in the United States were classed as “food insecure”. This means that they could not always afford to eat balanced meals, including 19.2 per cent of all households with children.
In addition, many American households are reliant on food stamps, with around 50 million people in the US, approximately 20 per cent of the population, currently in receipt of this federal government programme.
Anecdotal and survey-based evidence suggests that people in receipt of this form of government support tend to have a less nutritious diet than average.
There is thus a massive link between economic demographics and poor nutrition.
The study found that food insecurity increases by nearly 50 per cent the chances of becoming a “high cost user of healthcare services” within five years.
Meanwhile, the cost of healthcare in the United States is increasing rapidly, already accounting for almost one-quarter of all federal government spending.
It is suggested that increasing the amount of money spent on food assistance would turn out to be cost-effective, considering that this currently represents just three per cent of overall expenditure.
However, it must be said that there are huge vested interests that simply do not wish for this situation to change.
Commenting on the issue, Rev David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, outlined the dire situation that many families and individuals face in the United States.
“Nowhere are the hidden costs of hunger and food insecurity greater than in health care. Access to nutritious food is essential to healthy growth and development, and can prevent the need for costly medical care. Many chronic diseases – the main causes of poor health as well as the main drivers of healthcare costs – are related to diet.”