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Dietitians Dish: September is national hunger action month

By By Lindsay Adams
Sept. 10, 2013 at 4:10 a.m.

Lindsay Adams

September is National Hunger Action month, a time to bring awareness to the alarming number of people starving in our country. When it comes to hunger and starvation, your mind may drift to the commercials of small children holding empty bowls in developing nations.

It is sometimes easy to overlook the fact that hunger is actually still a big problem here in the United States. About 50.1 million Americans were living with food insecurity - 33.5 million of these were adults, and 16.7 million were children - in 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service in 2011.

In Texas, food insecurity rates were 18.5 percent higher than the U.S. national average from 2009-11. Food insecurity refers to the inability to provide adequate food on a consistent basis. Not getting enough to eat can have harmful effects for adults and can be especially harmful for children, who need adequate nutrients for proper growth and development.

Food insecurity can lead to medical issues such as multiple nutrient deficiencies, asthma, delayed cognitive development, increased fatigue and decreased immune function as well as psychosocial issues. Additionally, the lack of access to healthy foods in children living in food-insecure homes may be a contributing factor to childhood obesity.

If you are affected by food insecurity, there are many resources available to help. In Victoria, The Food Bank of the Golden Crescent, Christ's Kitchen and The Salvation Army are all establishments that help provide meals, groceries or other resources to those in need. Contact any of these places to find out more information on what they can provide for you.

When it comes to purchasing meals, eating a quick meal from a fast-food restaurant or convenience store may seem inexpensive but when priced out is usually more expensive than meals prepared from groceries and is often higher in fat and sodium.

When grocery shopping, consider purchasing nutrient-dense staples. Examples of some of these staples include things like whole-wheat bread, corn tortillas, brown rice or steel-cut oats. These will provide grains.

Peanut butter and dried beans are good sources of protein. Check the grocery store for different cuts of meat that may be on sale.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are the healthiest choice but can sometimes be more expensive, although you can sometimes find these on sale, too. If not, you can purchase canned fruit in its own juice (to minimize added sugars) or canned vegetables that can be drained and rinsed to remove added sodium.

If you do not live with food insecurity, do what you can to help decrease the numbers of Americans who are going hungry. Volunteer your time at one of the food kitchens or donate money or food to these organizations if possible.

You can also advocate for federal nutrition programs aimed to fight hunger. Take a look at feedingamerica.org/takeaction to find more ways to make your voice heard. Get your children involved, too, and take the SNAP challenge.

SNAP is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program formerly known as food stamps. The SNAP program provides $4.50 per day to help those unable to purchase food. To participate, try to eat off of $4.50 per day to get a little more perspective on how difficult it can be for some families in America.

Every little bit helps, so let's join together as a community to help those who struggle with hunger. You can also raise awareness by wearing orange throughout September to show support for hunger-relief efforts.

Check out feedingamerica.org for more information on food insecurity in the U.S.

Lindsay Adams is a registered dietitian with DeTar Healthcare System. Send questions or comments to dietitians@vicad.com.

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