The Lasting Effects of Hunger on Our Youth

Hunger is an issue that many do not think of here in the Western World. Even to those experiencing hunger and malnutrition they are told they are meeting the suggested caloric intake with their “food-like” products. Here in the US, about 50 million people are living food insecure and that is an absolute disgrace coming from a nation that claims to be one of the most powerful and wealthy on the planet Earth.

The effects of hunger leave many negative impacts on the youth experiencing such situations. Hunger is a huge distraction in their learning environments. Their motor skills, their activity, and chances to effectively learn are being negatively impacted by their hunger. Education is one of the main factors that can help many of these youth living in food deserts get out of such a situation so it can not be sacrificed due to hunger.

Many studies have shown that youth that experience hunger will be more likely to face other health problems later on in life. “Even one experience of hunger can have lasting effects on a child’s health, a fact that is especially troubling in light of the sobering rise in U.S. households that were forced to do without food in 2008: 15% of American families reported some compromise in the amount or quality of food they consumed, up from 11% the previous year” (Park).

Brain development is also negatively effected by episodes of hunger in youth, even with those that did not experience hunger frequently. “What exactly happens to the brain?

-Hunger delays development on the cognitive, social and emotional level. This includes reading, language, attention, memory and problem-solving capabilities.

-Hunger hinders our ability to focus and study. Children who experience hunger early on are more likely to perform poorly academically, repeat a grade and/or require special assistance while in school.

-Each year, as a result of vitamin A deficiency, more than 2 million children experience severe eyesight issues and some are permanently blinded. From birth, irreversible brain damage can be caused because of iodine deficiency in the mother. Iodine deficiency is easily preventable and affects around 1.9 billion people worldwide.

-Hunger results in a lower IQ and less developed brain matter then well-nourished children.

-Hunger and stress effect the functioning of the brain that determines decision making” (30 Hour).

These negative impacts on our youth should not be accepted. When we throw away about 30–40% of all food that we produce we should not have these issues. This is not about food access. This is not about charity. This is not about developing countries’ conditions. This is about our morals. This is about what we are willing to allow happen on our planet. This is about what we allow to go unchanged. The question is when will we take a serious stand against hunger. The question is when will we no longer accept hunger as a possibility. The question is when will we make hunger part of history.

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