Children’s HealthWatch founder and Principal Investigator, Dr. Deborah Frank; and Principal Investigator, Dr. Mariana Chilton contributed to a guest commentary for the Petoskey News on topics of food insecurity and SNAP cuts .
Guest commentary: Food insecurity hurts us all
Hunger in America is usually a hidden problem: no images of children with bloated bellies with a skeletal appearance, but rather an insidious, painful condition with damaging consequences for millions of families.
Food insecurity is characterized by a pattern of missing whole meals on occasion, eating less nutritious foods, or going long periods with no food at all. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has determined that 48 million Americans live in food insecure households, half of them children. The consequences are severely damaging.
Dr. Mariana Chilton carries out research with Children’s Health Watch to study the health impacts of food insecurity among children age zero to 4. She says that hunger is very damaging especially to young children: “It affects (their) cognitive, social and emotional growth. That means when they are old enough for kindergarten they are not ready for school; when they’re in school, when hungry, they won’t be able to concentrate … and won’t do as well on their math and reading skills, they won’t be successful and won’t get a good paying job. They’ll be poor and the cycle continues.”
Deborah Frank,M.D, pediatrician and director of the Grow Clinic for Children, says, “SNAP is like an effective immunization — it decreases the likelihood a young child will be sick, underweight, or developmentally at risk.”