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Malnutrition and Poverty -- Feed the Hungry

Feed the Hungry GroceriesBag of VegetablesMalnutrition and Poverty
Kids Care Clubs Feed the Hungry


Malnutrition and hunger are big contributors to poor health in poor children. Although chronic malnutrition is now rare in the United States, Share Our Strength estimates that 1 of every 6 children experience food insecurity. That is over 12 million American children!


Malnutrition is caused by a lack of food or by eating improper foods.
Hunger is the uneasy sensation or painful sensation caused by lack of food.
Food insecurity is lack of enough food to meet basic needs at all times due to lack of financial resources.

Among working poor families, food is often the last item in the budget.* Among homeless poor, they may lack the cooking and refrigeration facilities to buy healthy foods. Families buy processed foods such as bologna, sugar cereals, and soda ("liquid candy") or eat at fast food restaurants. Processed foods and many fast foods are high in sodium, fat and sugar and lack vitamins and minerals. These foods have replaced eating fruits and vegetables.

vitaminsWhat happens from a lack of vitamins and minerals, or conversely too much fat and sugar in a child's diet?

Malnutrition has a profound effect on children's emotional, behavioral, and cognitive development.

  • Lack of iron causes childhood anemia, cavities and impacts cognitive development.
  • Lack of vitamins C and D cause bone diseases like rickets or scurvy.
  • Too little riboflavin (found in milk) causes sores on the skin and in the corners of the mouth.
  • Lack of niacin causes pellagra, a condition that brings on diarrhea, skin rashes and mental problems.
  • Low vitamin A can result in eye disease and poor vision and skin problems.
  • Lack of calcium can minimize skeletal growth and bone mineralization, increasing the risk of developing osteoporosis later in life.
  • Too much fat can cause cardiovascular disease, diabetes and certain cancers.

Poor nutrition also causes obesity in children, a major epidemic in the United States, causing poor self-esteem as well as health problems. One fifth of the "vegetables" Americans eat are French fries and potato chips. Thanks to "super-sizing" fast food meals, many Americans do not even know what a normal food serving is.  Adults have to set the example by eating nutrient rich foods in the correct serving size and helping children do the same.

For more information on the Food Pyramid, Reading Food Lables and Serving Sizes see Kids Care Clubs Eat Wise - Exercise!

*See Kids Care Clubs Feed the Hungry What's Left for Food?