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The Health Risks Of Hunger

With so much focus in the media, government and schools on tackling childhood obesity, we can lose sight of the end of the spectrum. Some kids, even here, don’t have enough food.

A new study has found that children who go hungry don’t just suffer in the moment. They’re at risk for long-term health problems like asthma, as well.

A decade long survey of nearly 10,000 Canadian children found that kids who don’t get enough to eat had substantially higher risks of poor health overall. Those who had gone hungry more than once were also at higher risk for long-term chronic illnesses like asthma.

The good news is that the numbers of kids going hungry was small: 3.3% experienced hunger at some point during the study, and only 1.1 percent went hungry more than once.

That’s in Canada. In the US, recent data shows 15% of U.S. households experienced food insecurity in 2008. That means they ran out of food, and had no money to buy more food. That’s the highest rate since the government began tracking this information in 1995.

The consequences are especially severe for kids. Nearly half of youth who had gone hungry were in overall poor health, compared with 28% who had not.

I hope that with their focus on healthy food and healthy living, the Obama administration will make getting every kid enough food at least as much of a priority as swapping french fries for salads on the school lunch menu.

Photo: malias

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