Reducing food insecurity in infants and young children

In general, rates of food insecurity for children are higher than rates of food insecurity in general, according to the annual Map the Meal Gap study by Feeding America, a nationwide nonprofit network of food banks. According to data from the Children’s Defense Fund, this is particularly prevalent among low-income families, families with a single mother, black families and Hispanic families.

What does food insecurity for children mean

Food insecurity and hunger are closely related but not quite the same. Food insecure people do not have reliable and continuous access to an adequate supply of nutritious foods at affordable prices. Hunger is a physical condition; Food insecurity reflects barriers to accessing food such as financing, physical location, and transportation.

Infants and young children are particularly vulnerable to nutrient deficiencies because their nutritional needs are high, especially in terms of the size of their stomachs and appetite. Caregivers in food-insecure families may have little choice but to accept cheaper, energy-rich but nutrient-poor foods. As a result, food-insecure infants and young children do not receive adequate nutrition even when they are getting enough calories to satisfy hunger.

Even if a child is not physically starving, inadequate nutrition can negatively affect health in many ways, including immune system function, low weight, delays in learning and growth, vitamin deficiencies and more.

Ways to help promote better nutrition

Support good infancy and childhood nutrition for your children and others in the community with these practical tips:

  • Participate in (or provide to those in need) assistance programs. Government food assistance programs help provide for basic nutritional needs during infancy and young children. One example is the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Special Supplemental Nutrition Program, which provides a variety of resources including food and health care referrals to support mothers and young children at risk of feeding, including pregnant, breastfeeding and postpartum women, as well as infants and children Until the age of 5 years.

    Another example is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides benefits that low-income families can use to purchase nutritious foods. For children and adults enrolled in certain care programs, the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) help ensure they have nutritious meals and snacks.

  • Make purchases that work extra hard. In addition to producing foods that encourage better nutrition for children, some brands also make contributions that help offset food insecurity. For example, for each box of Super Bloom Organics Smoothie Purchased, the company donates a bag to a child in need throughfull effectProgram. Juice is a specially formulated blend of fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains without added sugar designed to combat malnutrition and help boost the diets of children who cannot get regular, healthy meals.
  • Act as a role model in making healthy choices. Kids learn by example, so make sure your kids see you enjoying nutritious snacks, filling your plate with appropriate portions and making full meals. When children are exposed to a wide range of healthy choices early in life, these food choices become the norm as they get older.
  • Volunteer at a food bank. Getting hands-on by donating your time at a local food bank can help you understand the complexity of food insecurity. Many feeder selections are perishable, and transporting and storing perishable goods is expensive. Volunteers help offset food bank operating expenses by contributing to the work of sorting donated items, preparing deliveries and more.

To find more information about foods that provide infants and young children with the nutrients they need, visit

Images courtesy of Getty Images

Michael French
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