The reality is that hunger and being overweight are linked by key factors affecting millions of children and adults. As a part of Hunger Action Month and Childhood Obesity Month, Kids Eat Right — a joint initiative of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and its Foundation — expanded its resources for food and nutrition professionals to work with individuals, families and communities to address this paradox of food insecurity that threatens the health of our nation's children.
"We believe all children have the right to flourish, to have consistent access to food and to live healthy, active lives. We must help increase awareness of food insecurity while also providing evidence-based solutions to reducing obesity," says Diane Heller, RDN, immediate past chair of the Academy's Foundation.
Poverty, unemployment and decreased home ownership are the key drivers that have led to food insecurity in America. "Food insecurity essentially means that, because of insufficient money or other resources within a household, there is uncertainty of having enough food to meet the needs of all its members," states Heller.
Nearly 16 million children in America are food insecure, and, as a result of these driving forces, individuals are left choosing less expensive, calorie-dense food. This leads to overweight children who are still lacking the healthy, nutrient-rich food their bodies need.
"There is confusion and conflicting information when it comes to obesity and food insecurity," Heller says. "Hunger and obesity often occur within the same neighborhoods — even the same families. More than one in five kids lives in a food-insecure household, meaning their family’s income doesn't allow for consistent access to food. Meanwhile, a child can look overweight while still being hungry for nutrients because limited income leads to a trade-off between food quantity and quality."
The Academy and its members are also strong advocates for programs that are effective in reducing food insecurity and nourishing children, including school meal programs and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). "When it comes to the hunger-obesity paradox, we will be part of the solution," Heller says. "One-third of our country's population is children, but children are 100 percent of our future. Their health today is our country's wealth tomorrow."
For more information on nutrition, family meal planning and fitness for children, visit KidsEatRight.org.
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