Overweight & Undernourished: Many Kids Face Dual Challenge

January 20, 2009

By Rochelle Davis, Founding Executive Director

Today we face the dual problems of obesity and hunger, affecting to a large extent the same vulnerable population.  It is very counter-intuitive to me that both of these conditions exist at the same time. That is why I read with interest a recent study from the American Dietetic Association, which found that childhood obesity and diabetes result, for children in poverty, from not eating enough to meet daily nutritional requirements. The study found that of the 1,400 children in the study, 44 percent consumed less than 1,400 calories a day — and 33 percent were obese.  According to the researcher Dr. Robert Trevino, the children studied were not overeating but were eating all of the wrong things. 

We know that healthy food is more expensive and unavailable in many low-income communities.  Since low-income students are participating in the federal school food programs, this only underscores the need for higher nutritional standards and adequate funding for these programs.  It is essential that all children have access to healthy food that will help meet their nutritional needs and give them the energy to learn and succeed in school.

Interestingly, a recent guest editorial in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer by Adam Drewnowski, director of the Center for Obesity Research and Nutritional Science Program at the University of Washington, underscores this point about what he calls the “dual burden of undernutrition and overweight.”  He focuses on the fact that health food is more expensive and that the “the key predictor of weight gain may not turn out to be sugar or fat, but simply low diet cost.”  Furthermore, he recommends that  “the relation between food, incomes and health should once again become a priority for global public health. The major policy and political challenge for global nutrition is to ensure a supply of affordable healthy foods to all.”

Read the full editorial.