Mrs. Erika McCombs
HonSem: ENG106 Comp II:
30 November 2018
From Malnourishment to Nourishment
Three main meals and a few snacks in between is what a typical persons food intake looks like on an average day. It is hard for many to imagine what it is like for those who go days eating very little or nothing at all. Malnutrition is a global challenge in which a person is not getting enough adequate nutrients that the body needs in order to be healthy. Typically, it is most common among the low-income group where there is a lack of access to food. That being said, increased risks of malnourishment can often stem from the prevalence of poverty in underprivileged neighborhoods. Not to mention, kids living in these appalling health conditions may suffer in their school performance down the road.
A childs body needs nutrient-rich food, not just any food. Imagine that a family is looking to buy a house. There are lists for two houses, house A and house B. House A costs $100,000, while House B is a whopping $300,000. Both houses are in the same area, so they might ask themselves, who in the world would bother buying house B? Well, house B was built by a team of professional contractors that have been in their business for well over 75 years. They use top-grade materials that are guaranteed to last over a century. So what about House A? House A was built by contractors from Craigslist who strive to build as many houses as possible for as cheap as possible. The materials in House A will eventually start eroding little by little, until the home is in brutal shape within a few years. Both serve the function of a home, but they are different when it comes to quality in the long run. A similar dilemma faces those in poverty. An impoverished couple walks into Walmart to buy food for their hungry kids. They see a fresh salad filled with leafy greens and vegetables; however, a box of Oreos costs significantly less. One serves towards a healthy diet while the other has ingredients that increase the chance for health problems. Eating nutritiously is certainly a struggle for children when money is scarce. Over time, this may become an ongoing pattern that can potentially have detrimental outcomes. Given that malnutrition impedes a person from living their full potential, government intervention in schools and communities must take place so that children are not suffering from the lack of nutritional foods.
Putting food on the table is a burden on families who are struggling to make ends meet. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, an academic report on low-income children under 18 years, revealed that in 2014 there were, 72 million children under the age of 18 years in the United States 31.4 million living in low-income families. This relevant statistic suggests nearly 44 percent of children in the U.S. live in a family with an inadequate income. In fact, a child coming from this type of family is at a high risk to be deprived of the kinds of food that he or she needs to grow to healthy adulthood. Generally, these parents are able to afford less for their children and there is limited household spending. This leads to the discussion of not having a sufficient amount of money to afford basic needs, not to mention skyrocketing living expenses that include rent, insurance, transportation, and utility bills. When the budget shrinks, food choices shift towards cheaper, more energy-dense foods. Children of low-income families are consequently suffering measurable harm in regards to their health. Nutritious foods such as high-quality proteins, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits become out of reach for these kids. In reality, low-priced foods like processed cereals, cookies, chips, sodas, and sugary juices are part of their mainstream diets due to their affordability. When purchasing groceries, the parent might turn to the cheap junk food that is provided at places like convenience stores or gas stations. They might even consider stopping at a fast-food restaurant because it is all they can afford. There is often a tug of war between cheap, not-so-healthy foods and expensive, nutrient-dense foods. Essentially, family income can take a toll on whether or not a kid has access to healthy foods.
If malnourishment is left untreated, kids are at high risk to be exposed to severe health problems that affect how well they do in the classroom. In author Anne Bridgmans book called New Findings on Poverty and Child Health and Nutrition: Summary of a Research Briefing, she provides a graph displaying infant iron deficiency and its effect on standardized tests in early adolescence in Costa Rica. Her strong evidence indicates that there is a relationship between iron intake and performance on standardized tests. In this case, students with chronic iron deficiency are scoring lower on the reading, arithmetic, and writing areas of a standardized test than students who are iron sufficient. If children are not eating substantial amounts of nutrients, they might develop chronic health conditions like anemia. Having anemia may leave a child feeling constantly tired and weak. It can negatively affect their grades in school because they will not have enough energy to stay productive, therefore falling behind in their academics. Keeping this in mind, their futures are at stake. To overcome their fatigue, they need access to foods that contain high amounts of iron like spinach, broccoli, or poultry, all of which are costly for parents with a not-so-high financial standing. When nutritional needs are being met, there is a higher chance of attentiveness in class. Benash Altaf, Assistant Professor in the Department of Physiology at Aziz Fatima Medical and Dental College reveals his study done on the role of junk food in nutritional deficiency anemia among youngsters. After a detailed analysis, he concluded that, Anemia is frequently found in junk food consumers than non-junk food consumers (Altaf). Altafs thought-provoking examination implies that kids eating habits play a pivotal role in the development of iron deficiency anemia. For this reason, more people in the population must become aware that low-cost foods have low amounts of essential nutrients which creates a threat to human health. In reality, malnourishment needs to be addressed because it can be an impediment to a childs ability to do their best schoolwork.
In order for the amelioration of malnourishment to be seen, the government needs to provide federal assistance for schools nationwide. For example, the National School Lunch Program is, a program created by Congress that provides subsidies to schools to help ensure that all children have healthy and nutritious school lunches (Alic). It provides cash subsidies and free agricultural products from the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) to public and private schools that participate. By doing so, the schools are providing nutritionally balanced lunches to lower income students for free or at a reduced rate. As a result, it helps to ensure that childrens abilities to learn are not compromised by hunger. This step towards improvement is crucial considering that improving nutrition in children is seen to improve school attendance and educational achievement (Archambault). Promoting a healthy lifestyle needs to start as soon as possible, so that children are not confronted with health disparities in this early stage of their lives. The sooner kids are introduced to wholesome, nutritious choices, the more likely they will be stimulated to develop a healthy relationship with food that can last them a lifetime.
By all means, nutrition is an essential component of the health of school-age children. Many human rights activists might believe that all students should receive free lunch regardless of their social class, however Under the NSLP, free lunches are supposed to feed students who cannot afford to buy or bring lunch (Alic). Alic assures that this beneficial program makes it possible for all U.S. school children to receive a nutritious lunch every school day in an affordable, convenient way. Providing healthy food options for children, who otherwise would eat poorly or not at all, is a necessity that needs to be recognized and put into action not only now, but for years to come.
For many kids, waking up in the morning, getting dressed, and sitting down to a bowl of cereal and some toast is the norm. However, for some students that luxury may not be possible. Similar to the NSLP, the School Breakfast Program is a federally assisted meal program that serves nutritional breakfasts to financially needy students (Gunderson). By consuming a healthy breakfast, children are one step closer to helping their growing bodies receive the adequate nutrients needed for the day. Often times, families are living on very tight budgets and cannot afford to provide nutritious breakfasts at home every nor the money to buy them at school. Because of this, children who go to school without a healthy breakfast may find themselves having reduced memory function, poorer attention span, and reduced performance in tasks requiring concentration (Van Wees). With the implementation of the SBP, children can learn better since their cognitive skills are enhanced. Van Wees thorough evidence denotes that the federal government should be providing healthy breakfasts for low-income students. Not only does it contribute to lower the percentages of malnourished students, but it can even make better grades in the classroom. This enables for brighter minds and solid careers in the long run.
Both the NSLP and SBP play key roles in ensuring nutrition and health for underprivileged children in the United States. Schools are widely recognized as dynamic settings that enable children to grow into healthy adults. These programs are vital considering that there are about 95 percent of U.S. children eating one or two meals at school on school days, (Institute of Medicine 16). Taking this into consideration, school cafeterias hold the potential to promote sound dietary habits among all schoolchildren. The two school meal programs assist those families that might be able to provide nutritious healthy meals at home or meals in general due to their financial situation. When education and meal programs come together to foster health as an essential component of life, the youth are provided with better opportunities to purse their learning. Conversely, it empowers lower-income children to engage in healthy practices and act as change agents to promote the health of their families and communities.
In addition to the government acting upon malnutrition issues, schools are starting to make changes in what sort of mediums exist that offer food. For example, California limited the junk food that could be sold in vending machines, and a study found that, as a result, California high school students consumed fewer calories at school than teens in other states (Alic). For schools that do not participate in the NSLP and SBP, the students might resort to the vending machines that are offered to satisfy their hunger. That being said, foods that are available in the vending machines at schools must contain foods that are high in nutrients. Children need a steady supply of nutrients to fuel their bodies and brains so that they develop properly. Through the integration of healthy vending in schools, students are encouraged to eat nutritious snacks like apples instead of fattening chips, so they are given the nutrition they need to grow and learn. Alic successfully acknowledges that providing healthy vending options is key to creating a healthier environment for students. It is a viable way to model healthy behaviors and continue building life-long healthy dietary habits. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions School Health Policies and Programs Study 2000 survey, 43 percent of elementary schools, 89.4 of middle/junior high schools, and 98.2 percent of senior high schools had either a vending machine or another competitive venue where students could purchase food or beverages (Howley). With this high presence of vending machines located in schools, it is a safe to say that vending in schools is here to stay. Schools today have vending machines that are filled with snacks, which is beneficial because they provide a quick outlet to help settle growling stomachs. The downside to having a snack in between meals is that the snack could be damaging to a kids health. Howley makes it clear that unhealthy food is becoming more easily accessible for schoolchildren. Although vending machines are a convenient and relatively inexpensive way to grab a bite to eat or something to drink to sustain students in between meals, it is important to realize what they are snacking on. A snack out of the vending machine is encouraged, as long as it is the right snack. If more states start switching to healthy vending machines in schools, other than California, kids can start eating nutritiously at a young age.
Of course, a school district treasurer might say that healthier foods tend to be more expensive than junk foods, so the school might not have enough to pay for this. However, schools can still make it happen. Fundraisers that promote healthy eating by selling baskets of fruit and vegetables or fresh-made smoothies should be considered instead of less healthy foods like candy and cookies. Encouraging healthier options at schoolwide events sends a strong, positive message about how student health is valued. With active fundraising, it allows for the money raised to be put towards the group of low-income students, so they can get a discount on healthy food options at school. By having lower prices, a student would not be as hesitant to buy foods from these healthier vending machines simply because it is too expensive.
Kids are still in need of nutritious foods after the school day ends. To combat this, emergency remedies such as local food pantries provide food assistance to those who are in need of it. In a pilot study conducted examine the barriers confronting food pantry clients, it shared that in the U.S., there are an estimated 200 food banks that work with over 63,000 shelters and food pantries it is estimated that 25.3 million Americans visited food pantries in 2006 (Pritt 70). Considering that food pantries help a significant amount of people in the country who are unable to afford food due, low-income households often rely on them when it comes to staying fed. These places essentially become part of low-income households strategies to supplement monthly shortfalls in food, however gaps are yet to be filled. The same pilot study points out that, the nutritional value in the food was below recommended levels of vitamins A, B12, C and the essential minerals calcium magnesium, and zinc (Pritt 70). This previous research evaluates the poor nutritional content of the food that is distributed at food pantries. There needs to be better efforts made by food banks so that more fresh fruits, vegetables, poultry, and fish are being supplied at food pantries. Children living in poverty become stuck in the cycle when all they have to eat are low-nutrient foods like noodles, potatoes, and bread, which are items that are easier for food pantries to have in stock. Given this renewed focus, an evaluation on the distribution of healthy foods in food pantries must be done. Once this is complete, the need to provide healthy food choices in food pantries must be advocated so that the best nutritional choices are served to low-income children. This way, the community can play an active role in tackling malnutrition and improving the well-being of poverty-stricken kids.