Poverty and Food Insecurity have Harmful Effects on Children
Being hungry isn’t enjoyable. Especially when the solution (food) is outside of your control or reach. Because you are reading this on a computer, tablet or smartphone, it is fair to assume that your hunger experience is usually a result of travel interruptions, poor time management, or intention. Food insecurity is a different story. Food insecurity affects 50 million Americans. 1/3 of US households with working age adults who have disabilities are food insecure.
When people cannot plan on regular availability of food, it can lead to poor immediate choices and longterm consequences. Children are especially vulnerable because they depend upon caregivers. Using nationally representative intake data (NHANES 2001-2010) collected from 9,701 children (2-11y), Kaur and associates report that personal food insecurity is associated with obesity in 6-11 y old children (not 2-5y old children). Personal food insecurity involves an adult within the household indicating they may personal concessions (cutting size of meal, eating less, skipping meals, being hungry, not eating for a day) because their family did not have enough money for food. As the authors conclude, programs designed to improve consistent access to healthy foods would be beneficial for schoolchildren.
There are risks of being born without privilege. Over 3 million children die annually from undernutrition, including fetal growth restriction, stunting, wasting, and deficiencies of vitamin A and zinc along with suboptimum breastfeeding, in low-income and middle-income countries. Children do not have control over their food choices. Children experiencing food insecurity are less likely to meet recommended dietary guidelines. In the US, a socioeconomic gradient exists with whole fruit consumption. In developed European countries, low socioeconomic status is associated with health inequalities.
Time doesn’t stand still for a child until the economic position of their family improves. The effect of micronutrient inadequacies in childhood lasts a lifetime. Children need solutions now.
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