Food Insecurity and Child Malnutrition in the United States

Children and the elderly are at increased risk for malnutrition, an affliction that takes place when a patient's body is deprived of the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients needed to sustain healthy tissue and organ function. Unfortunately, millions of children in the United States reside in households where food insecurity is a constant issue. The problem of food insecurity has gotten worse in the years since the official end of the Great Recession. Specialties Pediatric Article

Emily, a 9-year-old with a cinnamon skin tone and a strikingly angular face dotted by a set of chocolate-colored eyes, sits inside an examination room at the local children's outreach clinic. She comes to the clinic once a month with her siblings to have routine labs drawn and to be seen by the program's sole pediatrician, Dr. Graham.

Emily lives with her mother, stepfather and two younger brothers in a cramped one-bedroom apartment located in the southeast section of a large central Californian city where nearly one-quarter of residents' household incomes fall below the federal poverty line. Her mother works mornings as a cashier at a gas station during the week and earns extra money as a cocktail waitress on weekend nights. From the middle of March until the end of October her stepfather mows yards in an affluent suburb for a local lawn service, and during the winter months he picks up odd day labor jobs to supplement the family's income. Emily's family does not qualify for many forms of public assistance since the annual household income of $38,000 exceeds poverty level guidelines for a five-member home. Her parents receive monthly WIC vouchers for her three-year-old brother that can be redeemed for specific grocery items such as eggs, cheese, milk and cereal. However, this form of assistance will cease soon after the boy reaches his fifth birthday.

Dr. Graham glances at Emily's lab results. The albumin, prealbumin and total protein are all low. The serum iron, ferritin, TIBC, B12, folate, and other labs are all low. With a height of 4'9" and a weight of 77 pounds, Emily is very underweight. The objective and subjective indications come together to paint a picture of malnutrition, a condition that Dr. Graham has been noticing more and more in children and elderly patients during this languid economic period.

The doctor inquires, "What do you usually eat in a normal day, Emily?"

The girl pauses for a moment. Her parents have instructed her to screen all responses carefully because of their fear of authorities removing the children from their custody if it is discovered that the household runs out of food several days before payday. She fibs, "I eat toast, eggs and fruit for breakfast, whatever the school gives out for lunch, and chicken, spinach and rolls for dinner."

Dr. Graham suspects the streetwise Emily of lying. After completing her examination of the three siblings, she gives her parents a pamphlet with the addresses of local churches that offer free meals on certain days of the week. She also thanks the parents for bringing the kids in regularly.

According to the Johns Hopkins Children's Center, malnutrition occurs when the body is deprived of the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients needed to sustain healthy tissue and organ function. A balanced diet is required in order to obtain these nutrients, but millions of children in the United States live in homes where food insecurity is a pervasive problem. Recent statistics indicate that 13 million children in this country are in households where access to an adequate quantity of food is restricted. The problem of food insecurity has only worsened in the jobless recovery that has followed the depths of the Great Recession.

Many working poor families in higher cost-of-living areas are disproportionately affected by food insecurity since annual earnings tend to be slightly above the federal poverty line, but increased costs for housing, food and utilities rapidly consume residents' net pay. In addition, numerous working poor families earn a little too much to qualify for forms of public assistance such as food stamps. The heads of these households often choose between paying rent and keeping the family sufficiently fed.


Malnutrition | Johns Hopkins Children's Center

Malnutrition Impairs U.S. Children’s Health, Behavior - LSU AgCenter


Specializes in Pediatrics, Emergency, Trauma.
I live in a medium sized city in the upper south and one grocery tried to make a go of it downtown on MLK Blvd. The produce did not sell, and the shoplifting losses had the doors closed for good in about a year. Sadly, the mini-mart a block over is still doing a great business in lottery tickets, cigarettes, and alcohol....oh, and pizza and subs.[/quote']

If the mini mart, corner stores, and bodegas start to have fruits and veggies, as well as a supermarket, would've that made a difference? How were the prices of the supermarket and the quality if their products ??? Did their prices rival the of the mini mart (which is high already)???

That could've made a HUGE difference in going to that store, with the exception of the many robberies; which IMHO was the LARGER issue, but that's my two cents; I only can speak to MY city MY reality.

With community farms, supermarkets organic markets and the fortune of having the Amish come down with their goods my urban area has the access to fresh food; my point is many go out of the areas that don't have any quality supermarkets to seek it; some supermarkets do not look to their consumers and their economic status; if they did, they would excel; on the other hand, again, within economic sensitivity, the supermarkets may not excel either; you can look to my other previous posts where I touched on these issues and the issue of redlining.

I was having a conversation with a family member on how their lettuce became wilted after buying it from a local supermarket that we stopped frequenting years ago; the family member is educated, and practically vegan; knows a good buy and goes out of their neighborhood to get their groceries as well; this time they were in their area and with budgetary gas constraints stayed in the neighborhood; TRIED to support the neighborhood supermarket, and the thanks she got was rapidly wilting lettuce. :barf:

But I digress, let's go back to the mini marts, the corner stores and bodegas.

In my area, because to the rise of supermarkets, community gardens, and a main supplier of a farmers market and the Amish goods and a wonderful push of supporting local farmers, the corner store in a area that I work actually started selling fresh fruits and veggies because of two new supermarkets in the area to accommodate the accessibility of the two new supermarkets, which was a boon and stay crowded with community members with healthy food, fresh produce and reasonable prices, the caveat is the supermarket is near a university, so it garners a certain clientele to the benefit of the economic sensitivity of many of the community members; yet the corner store has the availability of FRESH produce that the neighborhood locals can get if they need it ASAP; and I have not seen spoiled produce left over either. :no:

The pressure from the neighboring supermarkets has dictated to the area corner stores to stock foods that are needed; the neighborhood has options and it has it into their business. That pressure is a boon to food sensitive and economic sensitive individuals and families. :yes: