Rising energy prices affect all households, yet the impact is greatest on low-income families. The lower a family’s income, the higher the percentage of their total income they must spend for energy. The strain on household budgets often causes unavoidable trade-offs between food and energy, called ‘heat or eat’ or ‘cool or eat.’ These trade-offs have serious consequences for young children’s health and learning, particularly for children of color. This report demonstrates the important role that the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) plays in protecting children’s health and ability to learn.

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Fuel for Our Future: Impacts of Energy Insecurity on Children’s Health, Nutrition, and Learning

The health consequences of trade-offs in spending can be serious, especially for the youngest children. The first three years of life are a uniquely sensitive period of extraordinary brain and body growth; the cognitive and physical development that takes place at this stage will never occur to the same degree again. Young children in this phase are especially vulnerable to any deficiencies in family resources or well-being.

Babies and toddlers who live in energy insecure households
are more likely to:
• be in poor health;
• have a history of hospitalizations;
• be at risk for developmental problems, and;
• be food insecure.