Food Insecurity vs. Childhood Obesity

Arkansas is ranked at the top of all states for having the most children at risk of food insecurity. Nearly 25 percent of Arkansas children are at risk of being hungry, according to research conducted by Feeding America from 2006 to 2008. Arkansas also has the fastest growing rate of food insecurity since the last study, with a 6 percent increase.

What is food insecurity? It is the lack of access at times to enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle. Even though some kids might have access to food it is not providing them with a nutritious balance necessary for their growth and health.

On the flip side, Arkansas has been battling an epidemic of childhood obesity in the last few years. According to the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, 1 in 4 high school students are either overweight or at risk of being overweight. Overweight children are at a higher risk of variety health problems such as diabetes.

Wait, how can Arkansas have both a high rate of hunger and high rate of child obesity, with nearly 25 percent of Arkansas children at risk of hunger and 25 percent of our high school students are overweight or risk being overweight? The answer is simple. Hungry families rely on food that is low-priced, such as fast food. That doesn’t provide a nutritional balance for children or adults. Without access to regular meals that provide children with whole grains, protein, fruits and vegetables, Arkansas’s problem of both food insecurity and childhood obesity will continue.

One of the primary factors associated with both child hunger and obesity is child poverty, as low-income families often have inadequate income to buy enough healthy food to both prevent them from going hungry and provide a nutritious meal. One of the best ways we can fight child hunger and obesity is to reduce child poverty, which also is one of the highest in the nation. For more on this issue, check out AACF’s recent report on child poverty.