The effects of food insecurity on children and youth are wide-ranging and long-lasting. While children in Hamilton don’t die of starvation, many go hungry and suffer negative developmental, educational and health outcomes that can impact them well into adulthood. September was Hunger Awareness month and so we would like to take this opportunity to tell you about the impacts of hunger on thousands of kids our communities.
1. Over 1,500 kids in Hamilton go hungry every weekend.
At school, meal programs help get many kids through the week. But these programs can only compensate for families’ food insecurity from Monday to Friday. Kids might be able to get through the school day without the distraction of a grumbling stomach but when the weekend comes, so does hunger.
2. Hunger and poverty are a vicious cycle.
According to the American Psychological Association, children who are hungry are more likely to perform poorly in school and to require extra educational supports than their well-nourished peers. Poor performance in school puts kids at an educational disadvantage which often translates into limited employment opportunities. Since food insecurity is strongly associated with poverty, childhood hunger feeds into its cycle.
3. Hunger impacts mood
Hunger can have significant impacts on children’s mental health. Hungry kids are more likely to be anxious, irritable and aggressive than those who are well-fed. It is little surprise then, that psychologists advise that one of the first questions you should ask an angry, aggressive or anxious child or teen be: have you eaten today? Alarmingly, research even suggests that childhood hunger can be a strong predictor for depression in teens and young adults.
4. Hunger is bad for your health.
You probably know that being hungry isn’t particularly healthy. But even occasional childhood food insecurity can have permanent physical and developmental impacts. Researchers at the National Cancer Institute and the University of Calgary studied the effects of hunger on general health, and According to Time magazine their research found that, “children who went hungry at least once in their lives were 2½ times more likely to have poor overall health 10 to 15 years later, compared with those who never had to go without food.”
5. Children are major food bank users.
Food bank usage in Canada has been rising steadily for the past decade. In 2016, food bank usage was up 28% from just eight years earlier. Sadly, children are overrepresented in the population of food bank users. Though people under the age of 18 make up only 22% of the Canadian population, they account for 36% of the population assisted by food banks
Bonus: You can make a difference
Early on, we realized that many of our kids were going hungry and so we started to provide them with snacks and a warm meal during our Saturday sessions. And still, every week, kids ask us with stress in their eyes: “when are we going to eat?”
We know that, too often, the meal these children get at our programming is the only one they’ll have that day. So we strive to make it count.
We are constantly striving to offer our kids more and that’s where YOU come in!
You can make sure that we have food for every hungry child who attends a CityKidz program. Your donation will go towards nourishing and delicious food like bagels, yogurt and clementines. $2.50 is all it costs to feed a hungry child at CityKidz. Donate Here.