Let's Fight Childhood Hunger
April 10, 2019 | View PDF
Have you ever been so hungry you could eat a cow? Or heard your stomach rumbling because you haven't eaten in a couple of hours? According to the Official State Website, an average of one out of five children are suffering from food insecurity. Food insecure households are those where people had difficulty providing food to all members of the household due to limited resources. Worldhunger.org defines hunger as a short-term physical discomfort as a result of chronic food shortage, or in severe cases, a life-threatening lack of food. Some of us have only dealt with hunger for an hour whereas for some children in Montana, hunger is the norm.
According to worldhunger.org, there are two basic types of malnutrition/undernutrition. The first is a micronutrient deficiency such as Vitamin A deficiency. The second type is protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) where there is a lack of calories and protein in the diet. Protein is necessary for key body functions including the development and maintenance of muscles. In the United States, most malnutrition is found in our overweight or obese population. The article The Dual Burden of Malnutrition in the United States and the Role of Non-Profit Organizations, describes that even though a person is receiving enough food, it is important to ensure these foods are nutrient-dense and heart healthy. Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables supply more fiber than refined grains and are protective against heart disease. Proteins such as nuts, beans, and legumes are great options and protect against cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
The consequences of experiencing food insecurity are numerous. Children are more likely to have impaired cognitive development, lower math and reading scores, and increased rates of absenteeism in school as well as both physical and mental health challenges. This can lead to long-term ramifications in a child's life, affecting their health and success even as adults. For example, hunger among seniors can lead to a variety of health problems including an increased chance of hospitalization, worsening of chronic conditions, and a weakened immune system. Due to preventable health care costs, lower educational attainment, and lost productivity in the workforce; hunger not only impacts individuals, but it has a significant economic impact on our state as well.
The good news is there are numerous ways to help fight childhood hunger. Last month, AmeriCorps members gathered in Helena along with First Lady Bullock to round up food through the citywide food drive Doorsteps to Kid Packs. Locally, the Boys & Girls Clubs of the MonDak, Richland Unit maintains the Backpack Program that allows students to receive meals over the weekend when school food is not available. Food bags include a prepackaged meal from the Montana Food Bank Network and fresh produce that are assembled and delivered each week. The Boys & Girls Club is currently serving fifty students in Richland County. Communities in Action works to prevent hunger through its action group, Nutrition Coalition, by offering unique ways to prepare healthy meals.
Want to know how you can help? Fight Childhood Hunger Week is April 14-20, 2019! We encourage you to help raise awareness and participate in Wear Orange Wednesday, April 17. Orange represents child hunger awareness. Post your photos on social media using the hashtags #WearOrangeWednesday #WOW or #serveMT to show your support!
If you want to learn more about Fight Childhood Hunger Week and how to get involved, visit http://serve.mt.gov/ServeMT/fight-childhood-hunger! If you want to stay updated locally, visit the Richland County Nutrition Coalition Facebook Page http://www.facebook.com/1rcnc1.