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Hunger as a health issue

Families in need, communities must rethink child hunger

December 28, 2009
Winter makes fiscal problems even more challenging for adults, but especially hard on children who have no say in how they're addressed — especially when the issue comes down to food.

Officially, around a quarter of America's children are currently "food insecure," but a study earlier this month found an even more troubling trend — nearly half will "encounter poverty or near-poverty" and need to rely on some form of food assistance before they turn 17.

Worse, authors Mark Rank and Thomas Hirschl added in the December journal Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, "between the ages of 20 and 65 years, two-thirds of American adults will use a means-tested welfare program, while slightly more than half will use the Food Stamp Program specifically."

"Research has repeatedly demonstrated that two of the most detrimental economic conditions affecting a child's health are poverty and food insecurity," they wrote. "Children in poverty are significantly more likely to experience a range of health problems, including low birth weight, lead poisoning, asthma, mental health disorders, delayed immunization, dental problems, and accidental death. Poverty during childhood is also associated with a host of health, economic, and social problems later in life. … The presence of poverty and food insecurity seriously jeopardizes American children's overall health, and understanding the likelihood and patterns of these risks across the span of childhood is a critical step toward alleviating these conditions."

Wednesday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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