Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Reality of Child Food Insecurity

Hunger kills more people every year than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined (WFP).

This statistic doesn't seem like it could be true but in reality there are 870 million people in the world that do not have enough to eat. The implications of food insecurity are immense, especially harmful to children and cause many long-term consequences. Children that don't receive enough food will have poorer school performance and their cognitive development will be significantly affected, in addition to adverse health affects such as increased risk of illness. Access to food and adequate nutrition for children is of the utmost importance and the best thing that we can do is inform others and provide awareness on the realities of child hunger - the more people that join in the cause, the better possibilities we will have of creating solutions!

Since my focus is on children's programs at Feeding America Southwest Virginia I would like to share with you the reality of food insecurity for children across the world, the United States and in Southwest Virginia.

Throughout the world the term "child hunger" can take on many meanings. Children can be classified as stunted (too short for their age), wasted (too low of weight for their height), or underweight (low weight for their age). [Adapted from]
  • The most recent data from the World Food Programme states that roughly 100 million children in developing countries are underweight and poor nutrition causes 45% of deaths in children under five - 3.1 million children each year [WFP].
  • In addition, 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world [WFP]
These statistics seem impossible to overcome but the World Food Programme and many other agencies are facing world hunger head on and have worked to develop many innovative programs that are contributing to the solution.

Information from:

United States
Feeding America recently did a comprehensive study on food insecurity in the United States called Map the Meal Gap 2013 and the data was just released on June 10th. It provides information on the face of hunger in the U.S. at the national, state, and local level with each county across the nation represented. To say that the data is invaluable would be an understatement as it will help Feeding America and other agencies across the nation immensely in the years to come.
  • Across the nation the child food insecurity rate is at 22.4%.
  • The number of food insecure children amounts to 16,658,000. 

It's hard to believe that almost 17 million children in the United States are food insecure and are going without meals and adequate nutrition for their development into healthy adults. Think about that for a moment. If these children aren't fed on a regular basis then they will struggle in school, at home, will have no energy to make friends and play outside, many will be sick often and may develop long term health problems. All of these effects are very real and can all be halted with a simple, regular meal.

Information from:

Southwest Virginia 
The data at the local level varies from county to county across the nation and it helps to provide a great picture of the need for strategic thinking with programs for combating child hunger as the counties differ across the nation. In Feeding America Southwest Virginia's service area the numbers are as follows:
  • The child food insecurity rate for our service area is at 20.4% 
  • The number of food insecure children in our service area is at 48,850.
So, by now I am sure you are asking what is the good news? Well, for Feeding America Southwest Virginia and specifically the Summer Food Service Program I can provide some very good news! In 2012 there were 49 sites with 36,836 meals/snacks served with a total of 2,691 children being fed. These are excellent numbers and they are higher during the school year because of after school feeding and Back Pack  programs.

Information from:

The Good
Even with all of the intimidating numbers and statistics on child food insecurity Feeding America can confidently claim that nearly 14 million children are served food through their programs. This is a large and very positive number in the fight against hunger. In the coming years I am sure that this number will rise as people from all over the United States will rally together to create new programs that will influence this problem at all levels. I have hope and a positive outlook for the future and I hope that you will join me!

Please explore all of the links to learn more about food insecurity in your area and around the world and share your ideas for solving hunger in the comment section of this blog, let's really try to create some excellent dialogue, I would love to hear any and all ideas!

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