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Consequences of Childhood Hunger

April 10, 2014 by

For most, the thought of a child crying from hunger is enough to move us to do something—anything—that will stop the tears. Some juice, a handful of crackers, a piece of cheese all sound simple enough. But for an estimated 2.8 million New Yorkers who struggle with food insecurity on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, the answer is far more challenging. What can a person do when there’s no food, let alone milk, in the fridge, no money in the bank, no school until Monday, no paycheck for another week, and no benefits—if any at all—for another month? And, beyond the emotional, there are palpable and systemic consequences to food insecurity that negatively impact both these individuals and our society as a whole. How can it not?

Health & Wellbeing

Children’s Healthwatch reports that “compared to those in food secure households, infants and toddlers in food insecure households are:

  • 30% more likely to have a history of hospitalization
  • 90% more likely to be reported in fair or poor health
  • Nearly twice as likely to have iron deficiency anemia
  • Two-thirds more likely to be at risk for developmental delays”

In 2010, illness costs linked to hunger and food insecurity were estimated to be $130.5 billion in the United States alone.

Academic Achievement

Teachers report that childhood hunger often leads to:

  • An inability to concentrate
  • Poor academic performance
  • Excessive absenteeism
  • Being held back and/or dropping out of school

The Center for American Progress’ “Hunger in America” report calculated the “the impact of being held back a grade or more in school resulting from hunger and its threat resulted in $6.9 billion in lost income for 2009 dropouts in 2010 and that high school absenteeism led to a loss of $5.8 billion, also in 2010. In total, food insecurity led to a loss of $19.2 billion in [life-time] earnings in 2010.”

The Economy and American Society

The organization, Feeding America, states in its “State of Hunger in America” annual report for 2014: A child being held back a grade or dropping out of school leads to a greater likelihood of limited employability, lessened workforce productivity, poorer judgment and poorer job performance. In 2010, the Brandeis/Center for American Progress’ “Hunger in America” study found that food insecurity “cost every citizen $542 due to the far-reaching consequences of hunger in our nation.” If the number of hungry Americans remains constant, “each individual’s bill for hunger in our nation will amount to about $42,400” on a lifetime basis. We know in our hearts and now in our minds what happens to children who face food insecurity.  And we know it’s just wrong—for them, for us as individuals, and for our nation as a whole.


Categories: Childhood Hunger

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