(Family Features) Food insecurity isn’t a new problem in the United States, but the economic upheaval created by the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the problem.
During the pandemic, households in the United States with children experienced an increase in food insecurity, despite overall rates of food insecurity staying the same. In 2019, 13.6% of households with children were food insecure, but by 2020, that number increased to 14.8%, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In general, child food insecurity rates are higher than overall food insecurity rates, according to the annual Map the Meal Gap study conducted by Feeding America, a nationwide nonprofit network of food banks. According to data from the Children’s Defense Fund, this is particularly prevalent among low-income families, single mother households and Black and Hispanic households.
What Food Insecurity Means for Children
Food insecurity and hunger are closely related but not quite the same. People who are food insecure don’t have reliable, ongoing access to an adequate supply of affordable, nutritious food. Hunger is a physical condition; food insecurity reflects barriers to obtaining food such as finances, physical location and transportation.
Infants and toddlers are particularly vulnerable to nutrient deficiencies because their nutrient needs are high, especially in relation to the size of their stomachs and appetites. Caregivers in food-insecure households may have little choice but to settle for cheaper, energy-dense but nutrient-poor foods. As a result, food-insecure infants and toddlers are not receiving adequate nutrition even when they may be receiving enough calories to satisfy hunger.
Even if a child isn’t physically starving, inadequate nutrition can negatively affect health in numerous ways, including immune system function, low weight, learning and developmental delays, vitamin deficiencies and more.
Ways to Help Promote Better Nutrition
Support good nutrition during infancy and toddlerhood for your own children and others in the community with these practical tips:
To find more information about foods that provide infants and toddlers the nutrients they need, visit plumorganics.com. Photos courtesy of Getty Images