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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Poverty and Food Insecurity have Harmful Effects on Children

By Michael McBurney

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.

MARCH is for ending food insecurity.

Main Citation

Kaur J, Lamb MM, Ogden CL. The association between food insecurity and obesity in children – the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. 2015 JAND doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2015.01.003

Other Citations

Coleman-Jensen A, Nord M. Food insecurity among households with working-age adults with disabilities. 2013 Econ Res Report No (ERR-144), 50pp

Kaiser LL, Melgar-Quinonenz HR, Lamp CL, John MC, Sutherlin JM, Harwood JO. Food security and nutritional outcomes of preschool-age Mexican-American children. 2002 JAND doi: 10.1016/S0002-82223(02)90210-5

Mackenbach JP, Stirbu I, roskan A-JR, Schaap MM, Menvielle G, Leinsalu M, Kunst AE for the European Union Working Group on Socioeconomic Inequalities in Health. 2008 NEJM doi: 10.1056/NEJMsa0707519

Drewnowski A, Rehm CD. Socioeconomic gradient in consumption of whole fruit and 100% fruit juice among US children and adults. 2015 Nutr J doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-14-3

Black RE, Victora CG, Walker SP, Bhutta ZA, Christian P, de Onis M, Ezzati M, Grantham-McGregor S, Katz J, Martorell R, Uauy R, and the Maternal and Child Nutrition Study Group. Maternal and child undernutrition and overweight in low-income and middle-income countries. 2014 Lancet doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(13)60937-X