A study published this week in the The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association helps make the case for not only addressing hunger, but the nutritional quality of food consumed by individuals and families who are food insecure. Nearly 7,500 teens (ages 12-18) were examined using National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data.
The findings? Food insecurity is significantly associated with both overweight and obesity - including central obesity - as compared to more food secure households.
This is a BIG problem. As the study authors point out, severely low levels of food security among children has almost doubled from 2003 to 2013.
But what do we do about it? Like anything related to our health, there's unfortunately no silver bullet.
Yet there are a lot of places to start...
Schools - Focus on what kids are eating when away from home. It's oftentimes where they are eating the most during the day, particularly those from food insecure homes.
Health Care Providers - Screen for food insecurity. Detect risks early and address them from a young age. This will not only help prevent chronic disease, but also has the potential to drastically reduce health care costs.
Nutrition Education - Make accessible for parents and families nutrition education courses on how to stretch your food dollars to purchase and consume more healthy foods.
Food Manufacturers, Retailers - Perhaps a policy issue, but the never ending debate over pricing continues. Are there ways to make healthy food cheaper? A number of local organizations are trying their hand at this, and it appears to make good business sense.
Of course there are more ways to intervene, to create an environment where low-income households can have greater access to a healthy food system.
Teens have a rough go of it, even when all the stars are aligned. These are REAL issues, beyond makeup, boys and the Kardashians - let's give all teens the space to worry about everyday teen "stuff," not where there next (healthy) meal might come from.