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Bridging the Gap: Increasing Nutrition Knowledge in LowSocioeconomic Children through Food for Thought

Emily Gill and Emma Grupenhoff

Introduction

Food insecurity and poverty impact millions of people residing


in the United States each year and can be detrimental to
nutrition status and overall health. Children are especially
affected because their developing bodies and brains need
increased energy and a consistent and healthy food supply to
grow normally. Poverty and food insecurity have been linked to
health problems such as high body mass index and decreased
mental ability1,2,3 These consequences can put this population
at further risk for obesity-related diseases such as diabetes,
obesity, and hypertension. Because food insecurity is such a
large problem within our country, it is essential that these
vulnerable populations get proper support and education for
optimal health.
Current public policies surrounding food insecurity target
children specifically. Such programs include WIC, SNAP and the
National School Lunch Program (NSLP). Additionally, the
America Gives More Act of 2016 helps promote food donations
to local food pantries and soup kitchens in an effort to both
decrease national food waste and decrease food insecure
households. Overall these programs have worked to help
reduce the incidence of food insecurity, but most lack an
educational component that could be extremely beneficial in
reducing reliance on these programs.

Research

As of 2015, 13.5 percent of the US population was living in


poverty.4 This percentage equates to about 43.1 million people. 1
Children make up 19.7 percent of this population. 4 Often, a
consequence of poverty is food insecurity, which is defined as
a household-level economic and social condition of limited or
uncertain access to adequatefood.5 Of those living in the
United States, 12.7 percent of households are food insecure. 6 In
households with children, the percentage of food-insecure
households was higher at 16.6 percent with 7.8 percent of
children from these households experiencing food insecurity at
some time during the year.6 In Ohio, food insecurity is even
higher than the national average with 16.1 percent of
households characterized as being food-insecure. 6

Experience & Research


What is Food for Thought?
Food for Thought is a non-profit organization based in Toledo,
Ohio that partners with local sites to provide several services to
the Toledo community as well as surrounding areas.
Mobile Food
Pantries
Only a state
ID is required

Snack Bag
Program
For
overweight
children
Partnership
with Mercy
Hospital

Packed
Lunches
Program to
provide
packed lunch
to the
homeless
Packed on
Fridays and
given out on
Saturdays

Food Box
Program

Summary
Whats Working?
Food banks have helped to feed many food insecure
individuals, whether the food insecurity is long-term or
temporary. Nationally, many food banks are part of the
Feeding America network of food banks. On a local level,
Food for Thought alone served 8,500 households in 2015 6

For expectant
mothers
Involves a
cooking class
and
participants
get to take a
box of food
home with
the
ingredients

Contributions to the Snack Bag Program


Created a nutrition education handout and activity sheet to
include in the snack bags
Created a handout for medical professionals to provide
information about why the snack bag is important so it can be
discussed with patients receiving the bags
Came up with new healthy snack options to include in the
snack bag
Volunteered at a mobile food pantry to experience how these
food insecure individuals and children receive adequate food
and meals

What isnt Working?


The food insecurity caused by the cycle of poverty includes a
lack of education which current policies fail to address
Some food banks have extensive requirements for utilization
of their services

Practical Applications

Health Professionals

Poverty Alleviation
Food for Thought aims to break the poverty cycle by providing
adequate and nutritious food for families and individuals. Poor
nutrition related to poverty causes low performance in academic
settings and future professional careers, this can lead to low
income individuals that are food insecure. 4 With the addition of
reliable healthy food, this may help reduce the prevalence of food
insecurity and break the poverty cycle.

Handouts can be great tools to target low-socioeconomic


status individuals as long as they adhere to appropriate
readability
Advocating for educational components to be added to
current programs can help food insecure individuals to
break the cycle of poverty through earning degrees or
certifications, and decrease reliance on programs
Advocating at the federal, state, or local levels for public
policies that positively effect food insecure households
increase the chances of such policies actually being
implemented
Increase the use of specific tools designed to assess food
insecurity, such as surveys and community reports

General Public

Volunteering at local food banks and soup kitchens helps


to relate the problem of food insecurity to others lives
and helps to alleviate hunger in local neighborhoods
To reduce the prevalence of food insecure neighborhoods:

Increase urban gardening initiatives and


community outlets

Expand and develop new full-size grocery stores


with a variety of produce

Replace convenience foods with quality foods in


corner stores

Increase transportation to food outlets via


carpooling, walking distance or public
transportation

Increase nutrition education for unfamiliar foods


and basic cooking classes