A Mother’s Hunger Part 2: Mothers More Likely to Struggle with Hunger and Obesity

May 8th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Gwendolyn Smith, a single mother with three of seven kids still living at home, struggles with both obesity and being able to afford healthy meals for herself and her family. (Credit: MPR Photo/Jennifer Simonson)

“If you don’t have a lot of food, whatever you get, you gonna try to eat enough so that you can be filled up, because you might not know when you’ll get your next meal,” says Gwendolyn Smith of Minneapolis Minnesota.  

Fact:  Mothers are more vulnerable to the paradox of hunger and obesity.

While it may not seem intuitive, it is possible for hunger and obesity to exist in the same person or household. Several studies have shown that there is a strong relationship between hunger and obesity particularly among food insecure women.  The financial and emotional stress of raising children on a poverty budget, coupled with repeated cycles of food deprivation and overeating, make mothers and women at greater risk of obesity.

Dr. Dianna Cutts from Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis shares how she began to understand the struggles of hunger and obesity.  “For families who have very little, this becomes a reward that really has meaning and is yet affordable at some times,” Cutts said. “And I think just in general, the meaning of food becomes so loaded when access is restricted.”  Read the full story here.

Poor and pregnant mothers are additionally at greater risk for pregnancy complications, particularly gestational diabetes and obesity.  Research related to food insecurity and birth defects is still in its infancy and requires further exploration.

In part 3, we’ll learn how hunger leaves women and their children vulnerable to other mental and physical trauma.

Texas Comptroller Obesity Report recommendation includes limiting “bad” food purchases with SNAP

February 14th, 2011 § 6 comments § permalink

A new report released by Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Susan Combs, “Gaining Costs, Losing Time: The Obesity Crisis in Texas,” reveals obesity cost Texas businesses $9.5 billion in 2009. If current trends in obesity continue, it could cost Texas businesses $32.5 billion from reduced productivity, obesity-related health care, disability and absenteeism.

Texas’ children are also at a disadvantage compared to the rest of the United States. The 2007 national Survey of Children’s Health (nSCH) found that 20.4 percent of Texas children aged 10 to 17 were obese, compared to 16.4 percent of all U.S. children.

In the report, the Comptroller provides recommendations for reducing the obesity crisis in Texas, many of which CAFB supports through programs and advocacy.  However, the recommendation to limit or curb the eligibility of unhealthy food items purchased with SNAP (food stamp) benefits, although a seemingly sensible measure, is a misplaced and probably ineffective means to reduce obesity.

Independent data has yet to confirm that people receiving SNAP benefits are more likely to make worse food choices than those who are not receiving SNAP.  Often it is access to affordable healthy food in low-income neighborhoods and/or the cost of healthier foods relative to other foods such as fast food, that dictates what can be purchased.   And, what should be considered junk food?  Is it soda because of its low nutritional value or should herbal teas or coffee also fall into the category because of their low nutritional value?  In any case, the USDA has been down this road all ready and concluded that restricting food items would be expensive, burdensome and most likely ineffective in reducing obesity.

Let’s remember the harmful effects of the welfare queen myth and not assume that just because someone is poor they are ignorant or unwise. From the Comptroller’s report, it’s clear that obesity is not just a “poor person’s” issue – it’s a Texas-wide issue and it should be treated as such.

The best way to support low-income individuals in making healthy choices is to make those choices affordable, accessible and appealing.  Here’s how we help:

We hope the Comptroller would consider a “carrots, not sticks” approach to fighting obesity, where SNAP benefits would be worth more when spent on fresh healthy foods instead of limiting choices.

Childhood Nutrition and Hunger – Two Sides of the Same Coin

October 29th, 2008 § 2 comments § permalink

Sixty-one percent of Austin Independent School District (AISD) students are eligible for free or reduced lunch – that’s a lot of children counting on nutritionally balanced meals outside the home and away from parent’s guidance.   And what about nutrition after the school hours? Working poor families without the means to purchase enough food may opt to have their children “feel full,” even if that means foregoing healthier choices at mealtime.

With one-in-five Texas children suffering from obesity, we’re working to educate and inform children in low-income households about their healthy eating options.

CHOICES, our nutrition education program, is funded in part by the USDA’s Food Stamp Program to help empower children and families to make smart choices at mealtime.  Our four-week children’s nutrition program, based on MyPyramid, teaches the health benefits of each food group, healthy choices among the food groups and how to classify foods into appropriate food groups.

At Apple Adventist Academy, in Austin, CHOICES students were asked why it is important to learn about nutrition. Here’s what they had to say:

“So when we grow up we can make healthy choices and so I can make something that is healthy for my own kids.” Hayley, age 9.

Hayley also says, “I think kids should walk around, exercise and run. They should eat healthy. Don’t be obese.”

“Healthy food can taste good and be good.” Hillary, age 10.

“When I eat junk food, I feel hyper.” Luis, age 7.

Get Involved:
You can get involved by becoming a CHOICES Volunteer Instructor or Assistant. Learn more.

We’ll continue to address child nutrition and hunger in the next few weeks.  Stay tuned.