In a nation where food seems abundant, some may be surprised to hear that about 11% of all U.S. households suffer from food insecurity, defined as a lack of access to enough food for all household members to have healthy lives.

A report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that low-income, food-insecure households spend about $13 less per adult equivalent per week on food at home than food-secure households (children’s food intake and spending were converted to adult equivalents). The low-income households typically acquire roughly 5,170 fewer calories at home per adult equivalent per week, and researchers say this is equal to about 4 days’ food consumption for a male or female adult.

Since food insecurity can lead to nutritional imbalances that raise the risk for costly chronic diseases, this study calls for government policies to help food-insecure households close the spending gap on nutritious food to eat at home. A study published recently in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior suggests that promoting home and urban community gardens could be one way to curb food insecurity.