Children and Hunger

Today I’d like to discuss how children in America are affected by food insecurity. To start off, there’s the startling statistic that more than 13 million children in the United States live in food insecure households (No Kid Hungry). In order to understand this issue more, it’s best to dive into public schools, and the situations that children are in in that regard.

According to No Kid Hungry, three out of four public school teachers say that students regularly come to school hungry. In addition, half of public school students in the country are from low-income families, and because of that, there are millions of students that rely on a number of different school-provided meals, such as:

  • 22 million children rely on free/reduced-price school lunches.
  • 12 million children rely on free/reduced-price school breakfasts.
  • 4 million children rely on free meals during the summertime when school meals are no longer available.

The effects of hunger on children can be incredibly destructive to both their in-school and out of school lives, as a number of negative outcomes can occur, as stated by No Kid Hungry. These can include the fact that:

  • Undernourished children don’t learn as fast or as well as nourished children.
  • Children struggling with hunger are more susceptible to obesity and its health consequences.
  • Lack of healthy food can impair a child’s performance in school.
  • Children who struggle with hunger are sick more, recover slowly, and are hospitalized more frequently.
  • Teens who regularly face hunger are more likely to be suspended and have difficulty getting along with others.

As it’s clear to see in the information provided above, children who deal with and struggle with hunger are immediately behind the 8 ball in a number of different ways. And while some may point to the fact that parents should provide their kids with healthier meals, it’s simply not an option for some families. In fact, 85% of low-income families want to make healthy meals at home for their kids, but only 50% are able to do so most nights a week, with the perceived cost of healthy groceries being cited as their number one obstacle.

But in looking at solutions, looking back to public schools is one of the best bets. In a social impact analysis article, again from No Kid Hungry, they found that the potential impacts of increasing school breakfast participation to 70% of school lunch participation could be great. Possible outcomes would consist of 84,890 fewer absences, 56,590 students with higher math test scores, and 14,140 more high school graduates.

Ultimately, child hunger in America, like so many hunger-related issues, deeply hurts those involved in a variety of ways. Whether it be in the classroom or out of it, the number of children affected and the consequences that they face because of it are extremely dire. Thank you all for reading.

-Zach

 

Sources:

Augustine-Thottungal, Robin, et al. “Ending childhood hunger: A social impact analysis.” No Kid Hungry, 2013.

“Hunger Facts” No Kid Hungry, 2018.

Seniors and Hunger

In this post, I’m going to specifically delve into the issue of hunger in America as it relates to senior citizens. Although many may not realize it, senior citizens currently face a vast number of hunger related issues, as one in every six seniors face the threat of hunger and improper nourishment, according to Aging in Place. That’s around 8 million out of the 49 million citizens 65 years of age and older. Due to this fact, it’s reported by AARP that seniors face a healthcare bill of over 130 billion every year because of medical issues relating to hunger. When it comes to where the highest percentage of food insecure senior citizens can be found, it’s best to look directly at both race and class.

In looking at class, Aging in Place cited professor Craig Gunderson of the University of Illinois in stating that the main areas where food insecurity is increasing the most is among Americans making less than $30,000 per year and those between the ages of 60 and 69. A large part of this comes from a decrease in wages and overall net worth, because of the fact that many seniors lost a lot of money when the stock market crashed, and weren’t able to recover as they entered retirement, Gunderson said. In information provided by the National Council on Aging, “⅓ of senior households has no money left over each month or is in debt after meeting essential expenses” (NCOA), further hurting seniors’ fight against hunger.

As for race, African-Americans and Hispanic seniors were found to have the highest rates of food insecurity, according to a 2008 Census Bureau report. When comparing African-American seniors to white seniors, their chances of having some level of food insecurity was at 50% and 16%, respectively. And Hispanic seniors were more likely to experience food security than non-hispanic seniors at a 40% to 17% difference. In taking both of these minority groups together, it was found that someone is more likely to be food insecure if they are widowed, divorced, or living alone.

Senior hunger in America is a problem though that is only getting worse. Move for Hunger stated that “Senior citizens are the fastest-growing food insecure population in the United States”, and that “For the first time ever, there are more than 10 million older Americans who are unsure of where they will find their next meal” (Move for Hunger). Furthermore, compared to 2001, the fraction of marginal food insecure, food insecure, and very low food secure seniors increased by 27%, 45%, and 100%, in data given by The State of Senior Hunger in America 2016 Annual Report.

The bottom line is that senior hunger in America, though perhaps underreported, is one of the top problems that America faces when it comes to hunger in our country. Hopefully this post helped to illuminate part of the issue. Thank you all for reading.

-Zach

 

Sources:

Beam, Dan. “Food Insecurity Among Senior Citizens Growing As Population Ages” Move For Hunger, 2017.

“Economic Security for Seniors Facts” National Council on Aging, 2018.

“The Fact Behind Senior Hunger” Aging In Place, 2018.

Ziliak, James, et al. “The State of Senior Hunger in America: An Annual Report” Feeding America, 2018.

Food Insecurity

The topic for this post is food insecurity, and the impacts that it has across the nation. The United States Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as when “consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year”. In simpler terms, food insecurity is the state of being consistently threatened by the issue of hunger. When comparing food insecurity to food deserts though, it’s important to take into account their differences. Food deserts focus more on a certain location/area where it’s difficult to attain quality food, where food insecurity focuses more on the individual. Food deserts occur in a set place, where food insecurity can occur within any person or home.

In looking at how food insecurity affects the country, it quickly becomes clear that the nation has a serious problem. According to the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, 50 million Americans live in food-insecure homes, with 16.7 million being children. But not only does the country struggle with the amount of food-insecure homes, the broad range in which they occur is an issue as well. Food insecurity exists in every county in America, from a low of 2.4% in Slope County, North Dakota, to a high of 35.2% in Holmes County, Mississippi. Furthermore, 20% or more of the child population in 37 states live in food‐insecure households without consistent access to food.

In terms of what the U.S. is doing to combat the problem, not much progress has been made. In an article from Fast Company, although there was a decrease in food insecurity in the country from 2016 to 2017, the numbers only declined from 12.3% to 11.3% percent, which nullifies the drop from meeting the statistically significant threshold. In addition, even though the numbers of those suffering from “very low food insecurity” are down in a drop from 5.7% to 4.5%, they’re still above the pre-recession level of 4.1%, which the article calls “both annually consistent and consistently awful”.

Food insecurity has become an increasingly prevalent problem in all aspects of America, without any major strides being taken to fix the issue. Through both the range and severity, it’s taken a major toll on the country. Thank you all for reading.

-Zach

 

Sources:

Paynter, Ben. “The U.S. continues to make barely any progress against food insecurity” Fast Company, 2018.

“What Is Food Insecurity?” Feeding Texas, 2018.

Raphel, Salley. “Children, Hunger, and Poverty” Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Journal, 2013.

What You Can Do

You may be wondering what you can do to help out. In terms of immediate help, donating fresh fruits and vegetables to your local food pantry is an awesome idea. There’s always an opportunity to give, and very often do food pantries have too much of what they need. In that same token, making food runs is another extremely helpful way to get involved, as transporting donated food items from point A to point B can be greatly appreciated.  

When thinking of organizations, Common Good City Farm is a great one. They’re located in D.C. and work to “create a vibrant, informed, and well-nourished community through urban farming”. Volunteering there or at a number of other hunger-based organizations would be a great place to start.

As far as what I’ve recently accomplished, I participated in a food run over Thanksgiving with my family. We delivered food from a Whole Foods to a Project Return location, as well as the Gillespie Center. Project Return serves homeless women aged 18-24 in learning the “life skills necessary to secure sustainable housing and live independent lives”, while the Gillespie Center is a homeless shelter for single men. Both destinations are located in Westport, CT and are sponsored by the Homes for Hope organization.

Ultimately, hunger has become an increasingly bigger problem in Washington D.C. and America, and it’s up to us to begin to make a change. Whether that’s starting small or large, any action helps. Thank you all for reading.

-Zach

Food Deserts

This week I’d like to talk about food deserts. Food deserts are defined as parts of the country that lack fresh fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods. They’re usually located in impoverished areas, due to an absence of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers (American Nutrition Association). When looking for a more specific definition though, the D.C. Policy Center provides a pretty clear one, specifically when looking at the Washington D.C. area. Their three indicators of a food desert are as follows:

  • The walking distance to a supermarket or grocery store is more that 0.5 miles
  • Over 40 percent of households have no vehicle available
  • The median household income is less than 185 percent of the federal poverty level for a family of four (for example, if the federal poverty level for a family of four is $24,600,  the median household income would have to be less than $45,510, combined with the two bullet points above).

In taking into account this definition, it was found that about 11 percent of D.C’s total area is classified as a food desert. Within that 11 percent, the highest concentration of food desert areas were found in ward 8, with 51 percent of D.C.’s food deserts being centralized there. When looking at the broader picture, more than 23 million people live in food deserts across the U.S., according to an article from Newsweek.

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The results of living in these areas can be quite harmful, as one could imagine. In an article from the Duke Green Classroom, food desert residents have higher rates of diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. They also stated that “Along with medical bills that may exceed what a family is capable of paying, these chronic illnesses can cause diet-related cancers and even premature death. These severe consequences of living in a food desert represent the potential for a life expectancy far shorter than counterparts living near a grocery store” (Duke Green Classroom). Furthermore, cuts to the food stamp program have left recipients with an average of $90 a month, making it that much more difficult on people living in foot desert areas. 

I hope that this post helped to inform you on what food deserts are, as well as where and how they’re impacting those affected. Thank you all for reading.

-Zach

 

Sources:

“Health and Socioeconomic Disparities of Food Deserts” Duke Green Classroom, 2017.

Parsons, Sarah. “Just Deserts: 6 Ways to Bring Good Food to Poor Neighborhoods How to End Food Deserts and Bring Healthy Food to Poor Neighborhoods.” Good, 2012

Quick, Susie. “A Town Called Malnourished” Newsweek, 2012

Smith, Randy. “Food access in D.C. is deeply connected to poverty and transportation.” D.C. Policy Center, 2017.

“USDA Defines Food Deserts.” American Nutrition Association, 2011Tobin, Brielle, et al.

 

 

 

Here We Go

Hello Readers!

My name is Zach Nevas, and the topic that I’ll be covering on this site is the issue of hunger in our nation. Hunger is a problem that often affects so many more people and places than we realize. Whether it’s a state, town, or even neighbor next door, we never truly know hunger’s reach. The purpose of this blog is to educate you on both the issues that Washington D.C. and America as a whole face when it comes to dealing with hunger, as well as the active steps that I’m taking to help the cause.

Through a combination of research, interviews, and physical volunteering, my goal is to  raise as much awareness and help out as much as possible in the fight against hunger. In doing so, I hope that I’ll be able to inspire you to do the same, and provide you with a number of different organizations to take your first step. Although the hunger problem in America is vast, I believe that it’s not beyond our reach to begin to and succeed in tackling it.

It’s important to realize that like any issue, hunger in America is ever changing, both in the degree of its effects and location. Due to this fact, you’ll be routinely updated on any new information that I come across from news outlets, journal articles, and any other source.

Throughout these posts, let me know of any questions or comments you have, as I’d be happy to look into and answer them for you. Part of my objective is to fill you in on a variety of aspects of hunger in our country, so don’t hesitate to ask. I look forward to the many days and weeks to come delving into this matter.

Let’s get started!

-Zach

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