March is National Nutrition Month, which is a time to reflect and learn about making informed food choices and developing healthful eating and physical activity habits. Developing healthful eating habits, however, is often on the backburner or an unrealistic goal for families facing hunger. A growing body of research shows that food insecurity increases risk for poor nutrition and diet-related diseases, as well as imposes barriers to chronic disease management.
Food insecurity is often associated with a lower nutrient intake as well as a lower intake of fruits and vegetables.
Hunger is linked to poor nutrition for various reasons, including:
- limited resources to obtain healthy foods
- a lack of access to healthy, affordable foods
- a lack of kitchen equipment to preserve and cook food
- cycles of food deprivation and overeating
- high levels of stress, anxiety, and depression
- fewer opportunities for physical activity
While adequate food intake is important for everyone, it is especially important for children, whose bodies are still developing. A 2021 study compared the nutritional status of food-secure children and food-insecure children aged 1-18 years. It was found food insecure children had a lower quality diet with an increased intake of sodium, saturated fat, and added sugars than the recommended amount. Additionally, food insecure children were at higher risk for inadequate intake of vitamin D and magnesium.
Knowing that we must consider our patient’s unmet social needs in order to improve their overall health, Swedish Hospital’s Food Connections programs partners with The Friendship Center to remove food access as a barrier to health.
The Food Connections programs provide emergency food to patients in need, works to connect patients to community resources such as The Friendship Center for long term food support, and provides free nutrition education to food insecure patients, staff and community members. Together we are ensuring that everyone has access to sustainable, healthy food sources and improving their long-term health.
-Amanda Kritt, RD LDN
About the Author:
Amanda Kritt is the Food Connections Coordinator at Swedish Hospital.