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Report: Ohio's Youngest Not Getting Needed Nutrition

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Babies, toddlers and preschoolers cannot access nutritional supports available to school-age kids. (pixabay)
Babies, toddlers and preschoolers cannot access nutritional supports available to school-age kids. (pixabay)
 By Mary KuhlmanContact
February 1, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio - A new report is shining a light on the impacts of hunger on the youngest Ohioans. According to findings from the Children's Defense Fund-Ohio, one-in-four children in the state is food insecure.

And executive director Renuka Mayadev adds more than a quarter of kids younger than age six live in poverty, which she says is the root of hunger. She says that means many babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, who are not often seen, are not getting needed nutrition.

"These are children who are at home with caregivers, in church centers, nursery schools," says Mayadev. "And as policy makers and elected officials think about this issue, we forget that there are children who need these supports that we don't see."

The report shows the ways hunger and malnutrition can have a detrimental impact on a child's early brain development leading to physical and behavioral problems that hinder a child's educational achievement as they grow. The report finds that more than 653,000 Ohio children are food insecure.

Mayadev says learning starts at birth, yet the nutritional needs of many babies, toddlers and preschoolers are not consistently met to support early learning. She points out very young children can't get meals through the crucial free and reduced-priced breakfast and lunch programs available for school-age children.

"They're critically important, but we need to remember there are children who are hungry that are not in school," she says. "Specifically these babies, toddlers and preschoolers that do not have access to these nutritional supports."

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC, provides support to meet the nutritional needs of mothers and babies. Mayadev says effective WIC services are crucial to reaching young children.

Part Two of the report, due out this summer, will examine the program as well as food access for those in child-care settings.

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