The Hunger Landscape in North Texas
Low-income children and their families are at greater risk for hunger and obesity and have limited access to healthy food choices. According to the U.S. Census, Texas is the 2nd hungriest state in the union, and 1st in terms of child hunger (Sources: USDA, Current Population Survey)
The Need in Dallas County
An alarming 192,502 of the 654,263 children in Dallas county live in hunger and poverty. The Dallas Cowboys Stadium could be filled twice overflowing and still not account for the number of Dallas County children affected by hunger. (Children’s Medical Center, 2011).
- While children are becoming more malnourished here, they also are becoming overweight. One-third of high school students are estimated to be overweight or obese.
- In Dallas county 64%, or over 300,000 children, enrolled in public school are at 185% or below the poverty level, making them eligible for free and/or reduced price meals. In the Dallas Independent School District that number jumps to over 84%. (Sources: Texas Education Agency)
- The number of hungry children almost doubles that of Dallas County when adding the ten counties surrounding the city of Dallas.
The Need in Tarrant County
- In the Greater Tarrant County area an average of 1 in 4 children (24.7 percent) under age 18 is food insecure, that is, not always having enough nutritious food to eat for healthy development.**
- An average of 60 percent of food-insecure children in the greater Tarrant County area, are eligible for assistance from federal nutrition programs like free or reduced-price school meals and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
- An average of 40 percent of food-insecure children in the greater Tarrant County area are NOT eligible for federal assistance programs due to the income of their households that struggle to access sufficient nutrition.
- In Tarrant County, while 1 in 6 of all residents (17.1 percent) do not always have enough food for a healthy, active life, 1 in 4 children struggles with food insecurity and hunger.
- Of Tarrant County food-insecure children, almost two-thirds are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals, WIC and other federal nutrition assistance.
- More than one-third of food-insecure children in Tarrant County are NOT eligible for federal nutrition assistance programs because of their household's income.
- Over the last three years, an average of 28% of Texas households, including more than 1 in 3.5 children faced hunger (Sources: USDA, Food Research & Action Center)
- Nearly 66% of all Texas adults are overweight or obese. (Source: Centers for Disease Control)
- In Texas, 42 percent of fourth-graders, 39 percent of eighth-graders and 36 percent of eleventh-graders were overweight or at-risk for overweight. (Source: UT School of Public Health, Houston)
The Hunger and Obesity Paradox
For many households, the lack of money can contribute to both hunger and obesity. This apparent paradox is driven in part by the economics of buying food.
- Stretching Food Dollars: Research indicates that the quality or variety of food consumed is often compromised before the quantity of food eaten.
- Food Availability: Lower income neighborhoods lack access to healthier foods. The five zip codes in Dallas County with the lowest disposable income also had the least number of major chain grocery stores.
- Overeating: Recent research has shown that food deprivation in humans and food restriction in children produces a tendency toward binge eating behaviors. When food is available, individuals in food insecure households may overeat, increasing energy intake and overall weight gain.
- Physiological changes: Physiological changes can occur in the body as a result of periods of hunger and consumption of foods low in nutritional value. The body begins to compensate for periodic food and nutrition shortages by becoming more efficient at storing more calories as fat.
- Less Opportunities for Physical Activity: Low income neighborhoods have few safe or attractive places to play. Open space—parks, sidewalks, gardens and fields are at a minimum and recreational facilities are inadequate. Over 150 billion dollars annually is spent on treating hunger-related and obesity-related illnesses and over half of that is financed by government sponsored health plans, Medicare and Medicaid. Obesity related deaths are second only to tobacco-use related deaths, with over 300,000 occurring annually.
FEED 3 has partnered with the Texas Hunger Project to end hunger in our area by 2015.
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