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It’s more than just hunger: How fighting hunger today pays off tomorrow

Color portrait of Mark Pabst By Mark Pabst

Each year, 40 million Americans struggle with hunger due to poverty. Of those going without, 11 million are children — one in every six kids. Children who grow up without adequate food are more likely to experience health problems into adulthood.

At the retail cost of food, it would take over $20 billion a year to close the national meal gap.  Fortunately, food banks are able to address the problem more efficiently, turning one dollar into as many as seven meals for the hungry. But these community-based organizations require help to handle their mission efficiently.

Solving food insecurity will take a concerted effort by private enterprise, nonprofits and policy makers. The first step is to understand the scope of the problem and its long-term effects. In the graphic below, we show how hunger impacts three counties in California. 

The economic payoff of addressing food insecurity may not be realized right away. But the short-term benefits are as clear as the look of satisfaction on a child’s face after he’s licked his plate clean. 

Aetna is the brand name used for products and services provided by Aetna Better Health and/or its affiliates.

Fighting hunger today pays off tomorrow  

Across the United States, a shocking number of children are food-insecure  

18% American kids who are food-insecure  

 

In parts of California, the numbers are even higher 

Children who are food-insecure  

19.9% San Bernardino County  

26.2% Fresno County  

33.1% Imperial County  

Being food insecure increases a mother’s chance of delivering an underweight baby by 38% 

 

Hungry kids have more health problems, including increased… 

Hospitalizations 30% 

Obesity 22% 

High blood sugar 10% 

 

…And these problems are linked to poor health in adulthood 

Low birth weight infants are 20 percent more likely to suffer heart disease in adulthood  

Obese children are twice as likely to develop high blood pressure in adulthood  

Children with high blood sugar are four times as likely to develop diabetes in adulthood  

 

Addressing food insecurity in California could save millions annually by reducing the burden of chronic disease  

$40 million in Imperial County 

$182 million in Fresno County  

$355 million in San Bernardino County  

 

Together, we can fight food insecurity by supporting policies and organizations that make fresh food accessible to people in need  

 

The Aetna Foundation contributes to CBOs that distributed over 64 million pounds of food in California annually

Fighting hunger today pays off tomorrow 

Across the United States, a shocking number of children are food-insecure  

18% American kids who are food-insecure  

 

In parts of California, the numbers are even higher 

Children who are food-insecure  

19.9% San Bernardino County  

26.2% Fresno County  

33.1% Imperial County  

Being food insecure increases a mother’s chance of delivering an underweight baby by 38% 

 

Hungry kids have more health problems, including increased…

Hospitalizations 30% 

Obesity 22%

High blood sugar 10%

 

…And these problems are linked to poor health in adulthood

Low birth weight infants are 20 percent more likely to suffer heart disease in adulthood  

Obese children are twice as likely to develop high blood pressure in adulthood  

Children with high blood sugar are four times as likely to develop diabetes in adulthood  

 

Addressing food insecurity in California could save millions annually by reducing the burden of chronic disease  

$40 million in Imperial County 

$182 million in Fresno County  

$355 million in San Bernardino County  

 

Together, we can fight food insecurity by supporting policies and organizations that make fresh food accessible to people in need  

 

The Aetna Foundation contributes to CBOs that distributed over 64 million pounds of food in California annually

About the author

Mark Pabst has worked as a writer and researcher in the health care field for almost two decades. When not writing about health he tries to stay healthy through activities like hiking, climbing and paddling in the far flung corners of his native state of California. However, despite his best efforts he still has a few unhealthy habits he can’t shake, most notably a weakness for jelly donuts.

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