‘The effects will linger’: US kids’ long-term health in jeopardy after pandemic schooling

Originally posted on USA Today News.

More kids going hungry

The pandemic has deprived millions of children of school-related services that normally blunt the harm caused by poverty.

From March to May 2020, students missed more than 1.1 billion free or reduced-price meals that would have been provided in school.

Children who experience even occasional “food insecurity” suffer two to four times as many health problems as other kids at the same income level, said Dr. Deborah Frank, director of the Grow Clinic for Children at Boston Medical Center.

Kids who don’t consistently eat nutritious meals are more likely to develop anemia, more likely to be hospitalized and more susceptible to lead poisoning, Frank said. They also are more likely to behave aggressively and suffer from hyperactivity, depression and anxiety.

The consequences of food insecurity last well into adulthood, she said, increasing the risk of substance abuse, arrest and suicidal thoughts.

“These kids have endured a year and a half of deprivation,” Frank said. “You can’t sweep all that under the rug.”