How is Ohio Tackling Childhood Hunger?
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Organizations that serve Ohio children are joining with hunger-fighting groups to address the continuing hunger crisis among the state's youngest residents.
A new brief called Tackling Child Hunger in Ohio from the Ohio Association of Foodbanks and Voices for Ohio's Children looks at what is working in the Buckeye State, and what else can be done to ensure no child is left with an empty stomach.
According to Voices for Ohio's Children CEO Sandy Oxley, one in four Ohio children live in food-insecure households. The anxiety that comes from hunger and where the next meal may be coming from can have a lasting, negative impact on a child's life as they grow into adulthood.
"We can't expect that our children who are hungry will learn at their highest potential or be healthy individuals when they're facing food insecurity and hunger challenges," says Oxley.
While funding exists at the state and federal level for food and nutrition services, Oxley says it hasn't been adequate to meet the need, large numbers of eligible children are not participating, and there are not enough service sites. She says expanded access to free or reduced-priced breakfast and lunches at school, and in after-school settings, can go a long way to ensuring children do not go hungry.
In addition, childhood obesity has more than doubled over the past 30 years. Oxley says poverty and access to nutritious foods plays a factor.
"When a national study of more than 40,000 children found that kids who come from lower-income households had more than two times higher odds of being obese than kids from higher-income households, we can see the direct correlation food insecurity has with obesity," she says.
According to the report, food-insecure children are nearly twice as likely to be in poor health than their peers with adequately nutritious diets.
Oxley says at the federal level, leaders need to look at expanding SNAP benefits, and continue funding next year for the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act, which authorizes all of the federal child-nutrition programs.
"We certainly are going to be working to ensure the policy recommendations not only include adequate funding at the federal level," says Oxley, "but flexibility so states have good implementation and that all the children who are eligible can actually access the program."
Oxley adds that collaborative efforts with organizations across the state, as well as administrative leaders and state departments, will be the key to success in addressing food insecurity among Ohio's children.