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The Childhood Obesity-Food Insecurity Paradox
March 31, 2014
The Childhood Obesity-Food Insecurity Paradox

By Alison Kaufman and Kristen Pufahl Schreck

Food for thoughtA study published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that the obesity rate for American children aged two to five years old had dropped from 14% to 8% from 2003-2004 to 2011-2012, a decrease of 43 percent. While this news shows that the US is making significant progress in the childhood obesity epidemic, we still have a lot of work to do. Approximately one in twelve children (23 million) in this country is still overweight. Being overweight is linked to health and developmental issues, poorer academic performance, and behavioral problems. Children who are overweight or obese during these formative preschool years are five times more likely to be overweight or obese as adults than their healthy-weighted peers.

A compounding factor is that children who are food insecure are more at risk for being overweight or obese. More than sixteen million children in this country live in food-insecure households, which means that these households experience limited or uncertain access to adequate food. Food insecurity is also linked to choosing more inexpensive, less nutritious foods. These circumstances and decisions can cause nutrient deficiencies and obesity, thus overturning the traditional image of the underweight, impoverished child.

JF&CS Nutrition Services works to increase knowledge of this obesity-food insecurity paradox and helps families eat healthier on a limited budget. We:

Alison KaufmanAlison Kaufman, MS, RD, LDN is the Director of Hunger and Nutrition. Alison is a licensed, registered dietitian who works to improve the nutritional response to food insecurity. She spearheaded changes at JF&CS Family Table that improved the food, operations, and customer experience. In addition, she established the Greater Boston Hunger Network, which helps food pantries in 20 local towns network, learn from each other to improve operations, and implement best practices. She is the co-chair of the Food Security Task Force for the Hunger and Environmental Practice Group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In this role, she helped create the Nourish to Flourish infographic and the Healthy Food Bank Hub website. Really good tomatoes are her favorite food.

Kristin Pufahl SchreckKristen Pufahl Schreck, a licensed registered dietitian, is the JF&CS Nutrition Services Program Manager and the coordinator of Healthy JF&CS, the agency’s employee wellness program. She also teaches at Boston University and is on the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Dietetic Association. Kristen was named the Massachusetts Young Registered Dietitian of the Year in 2012.

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