Kids Who Suffer Hunger In First Years Lag Behind Their Peers In School

Growing up in a hungry household in the first couple of years of life can hurt how well a child performs in school years later, according to a new study.

An estimated 13.1 million children live in homes with insufficient food, according to the most recent figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Many of those children experience hunger during their first few years of life, or their parents are hungry and stressed out about food during those years – the most crucial time for a child’s development.

The new study, published in the latest issue of the journal Child Development, suggests that such early experience of hunger in the family is likely to make those children less ready for kindergarten than their classmates who came from homes with enough to eat. It shows that kids who experienced food insecurity in their first five years of life are more likely to be lagging behind in social, emotional and to some degree, cognitive skills when they begin kindergarten.

“The findings from the study weren’t surprising, in the sense that they’re consistent with previous research,” says John Cook, the lead scientist at Boston Medical Center’s Children’s Health Watch, a research group that monitors the effects of economic condition and public policies on the health of very young kids. A growing number of studies in neuroscience and social science show that hunger experienced early in life can have serious consequences for a child’s development.

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