Be Our Voice Blog

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Hunger and Obesity: Related Problems on the Rise

Posted by: Hillary Anderson, Project Manager (NICHQ)

Purchasing healthy foods on a budget can be a challenge. And fresh fruits and vegetables may not be available in all neighborhoods. When food competes with covering other basic household expenses like rent or mortgage, medical bills, or transportation to work, families have to make tough choices. And that sometimes means sacrificing quality and nutrition for what is convenient and least expensive.  

Feeding America, the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief charity, reports that hunger is increasing: their organization is now annually providing food to 37 million Americans, including 14 million children. And although it may seem contradictory at first glance, hunger and obesity can both occur in the same child, family, or community.

A recent Huffington Post article, “Hunger Obesity and Innovation in the Emergency Food System” points out that “following a 30-40 percent rise in people visiting food pantries since the recession, food banks have become a strategic point of opportunity to improve the health of poor families.” But it can be difficult for food banks, which rely almost entirely on food donations, to provide healthy options like fresh produce and whole grains. So how do we overcome the economic and logistical barriers to getting healthier foods into food banks?

One answer is collaboration. The Huffington Post author highlights the California partnership between MAZON and Kaiser Permanente called Healthy Options, Healthy Meals. In this partnership, collaboration is key. MAZON brings healthy eating and nutritional education specific to the state’s emergency food programs to Kaiser Permanente’s eight patient regions; Kaiser then utilizes its network of healthcare professionals to support food bank program and policy changes.

Another example of this kind of successful partnership can be found in the Let’s Move! Detroit community‘s Green Ribbon Collaborative. Featured on the Let’s Move! Blog, the Green Ribbon Collaborative coordinates efforts among the Gleaners Community Food Bank, the Green of Detroit’s Urban Agriculture program, the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC) and the Fair Food Network. The agricultural partners provide 20 pounds of fresh produce to residents at a minimal price, and, in turn, Gleaners Community Food Bank arranges for distribution to Detroit’s east side.

Collaborative, community-based solutions like these are critical in addressing both the rising hunger and obesity rates across the county. Emergency food systems and food banks demonstrate a critical point of opportunity for healthcare professionals to improve child and family nutrition. By partnering with local businesses and existing organizations, healthcare professionals can have a lasting impact on the health of their communities.

General Childhood Obesity  Healthy Kids 



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