Did you know that right now, as you are reading this, there are over 26,000 children attending San Diego County schools who have been identified as homeless, food insecure, or both?
Food insecure means living without a reliable source of affordable, nutritious food. That may be hard to imagine somewhere as beautiful and affluent as San Diego California, but it's true, and that number is growing every year.
This year, Americans will spend over 35 billion dollars on aid to foreign countries. 240 million of those dollars will come from residents of San Diego County alone. At the same time, school cafeteria food is the primary source of nutrition for over 26,000 children right here in our own backyard. Many of them endure entire weekends with little to nothing of any nutritional value to eat. Think about that.
These are not just kids from remote, rural areas or low income neighborhoods. They are not kids of any particular race or ethnicity. You won't see their picture hanging on anyone's refrigerator door or their sad little faces on late night television commercials with celebrities pleading their cause. These are children from all walks of life, right here in our local schools, who by no fault or control of their own are caught up it difficult economic conditions that determine what, if anything, they will have to eat.
Hunger can be harmful to any individual, but is particularly devastating to children due to their increased vulnerability and potential for long-term consequences, including health issues and behavioral challenges. Studies have found that:
Hunger has been associated with health problems that may hinder a child's ability to function normally and participate fully in school and other activities.
Children who suffer from food insecurities are more likely to require hospitalization, at higher risk for chronic health conditions, such as anemia, and asthma, and have more frequent instances of oral health problems.
Food insecurity among young children is associated with poorer physical quality of life, which may prevent them from fully engaging in daily activities such as school and social interaction with peers.
Food insecurity is also associated with social difficulties, truancy and school tardiness, hyperactivity, aggression, anxiety, mood swings, bullying, and fighting with other children.
1. San Diego County Office of Education Web Site / http://www.sdcoe.net/news/Pages/2014-Drive-for-Success.aspx