As odd as it may seem, households in the U.S. with food insecurity are also households with childhood obesity. Some have proposed theories that low income households are consuming high fat, high calorie foods to make up for the lack of quantity of foods, thus contributing to overweight. Another theory is that when money is available and food is abundant in the household, high amounts of food and calories are consumed in a short time leading to a feast-famine cycle. This somehow effects the physiology of the body, leading to excess weight gain. But really no one completely agrees or is quite sure why this paradox occurs. What we do know is that 11% of households in the U.S. were considered food insecure in 2004. Given the current economy and job loss, this number is likely higher today.
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that food insecure households with hunger was associated with higher obesity rates in girls ages 2 - 5 years old. An association was not found in food insecure households without hunger. Food insecurity is defined as an uncertain or limited ability to obtain adequate amounts of food and nutrients in socially acceptable ways. In other words not knowing when or where your next meal will come from. Food insecurity with hunger takes this definition further to the point at which meals are regularly missed or one meal may need to be spread through out the day. Food is insufficient to sustain normal physical function and activities.
Given the public health concern of childhood obesity, many community outreach programs exist within schools and after school programs to teach kids to make healthy food choices and exercise more. There are legislated mandates to teach nutrition in schools. It seems everyone wants in on the action to prevent childhood obesity. But how does all this education help if the families of these children can't afford and don't have access to healthy foods in the first place?
You can help fight childhood obesity by helping to make healthy food available. Donate to your local food bank or help tend a community garden. It doesn't matter how much one knows about nutrition, if nutritious foods are not available or affordable, people will not eat them.