Welcome back to the ECHA Blog! We’re continuing with our series “Child Hunger at Home” which outlines the critical issue of hunger and the effects on children. If this is your first time on the blog, we hope you find helpful information here. Also, there are three previous posts in this series so go back & check those out.
The result of food insecurity on the child:
Children are less likely to do well in school – Children facing food insecurity especially in the first three years of life are more likely to start school behind their peers. They are less likely to participate in programs that could help close achievement gaps and by the end of 5th grade these children could be as much as 2 full years behind their peers in school. Children that start out behind are more likely to stay behind resulting in repeating a grade in school which increases their chances of not graduating.
Children are 2 ½ times more likely to get sick –
Research conducted by Children’s HealthWatch and reported on by Feeding America [Child Food Insecurity: The Economic Impact on Our Nation] finds strong ties to nutrition and overall health and well-being:
Food-insecure children are 90% more likely to have their overall health reported as “fair/poor” rather than “excellent/good” than kids from food-secure homes.
Food insecurity is linked to increased hospitalizations, developmental problems, headaches, stomachaches and even colds.
When children eat breakfast, they tend to consume more nutrients and experience lower obesity rates – a growing problem in areas known as food deserts. With the lack of access to healthy food choices, populations living in food deserts have diets made up of more processed foods which are higher in fat and sugar – two things that lead to overweight and obese children and adults. According to the Children’s Health Survey, Alabama ranks 3rd in the nation in prevalence of high school students to become obese (http://stateofobesity.org/states/al/). Health costs for children who are obese are three times higher than for children who are not. Chronic health conditions are often brought on by obesity and these conditions only get worse as an obese child grows into an obese adult and faces a life of Type II Diabetes, Hypertension, Arthritis, etc.
Hunger in childhood has been linked to significant health problems in adulthood.
This research showed the effects of hunger and food insecurity are really damaging in terms of children’s life chances. Children who went hungry at least once in their lives were 2 ½ times more likely to have poor overall health 10 to 15 years later, compared to children who never experienced hunger. Children who experienced two or more periods of hunger were more than 4 times as likely to report poor health.
Children who have poor nutrition may miss up to 160 days due to illness each year. When a school year is comprised of 180 days you can see that being sick for 160 days (not all school days) would have a huge impact on a child’s ability to keep up with classwork. If these children live in poverty they may or may not have health care which means they may or may not get to a doctor early enough before the illness turns into something more critical.
This includes dental issues as well. Remember the 12 year old boy who died because of poor dental health – contributable to diet, lack of dental care – so an infection in a tooth became fatal. That should not be happening in our country.
*Information for this post provided by VOICES for Alabama’s Children. *