February 2007

Grant Results

SUMMARY

From 2004 to 2005, staff with the Food Research and Action Center wrote a 33-page white paper on the relationships between poverty, hunger and "food insecurity" (defined as limited or uncertain access to nutritious, safe foods necessary to lead a healthy lifestyle), as well as the potential role of federal food nutrition programs in reducing both hunger and obesity.

The paper, entitled Obesity, Food Insecurity and the Federal Child Nutrition Programs: Understanding the Linkages, is available online.

Key Findings

  • In 2004, 11.9 percent of households in the United States were food insecure.
  • Rates of food insecurity in 2004 were higher for households below the poverty line (36.8 percent), households with children headed by a single woman (33 percent), African-American households (23.7 percent) and Hispanic households (21.7 percent).
  • A number of studies have demonstrated a strong association between food insecurity and obesity among low-income women.
  • Food insecurity results in poor quality diets, compromised child and adult health, mental health problems and educational deficits among children.
  • Federal child nutrition programs can play a crucial role in preventing both food insecurity and obesity, as well as in increasing economic security and improving nutritional intake.

Funding
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) supported this unsolicited project with a grant of $15,250.

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THE PROBLEM

The percentage of young people who are overweight has more than tripled since 1980, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Among children and teens aged 6 to 19 years, 16 percent (more than 9 million young people) are considered overweight. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of many diseases and health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, stroke and coronary heart disease.

Although the causes of obesity include factors that affect all Americans, there is also growing evidence that obesity among low-income Americans is linked to "food insecurity," defined as limited or uncertain access to nutritious, safe foods necessary to lead a healthy lifestyle.

In 2004, more than 10 percent of all U.S. households — representing 20 million adults and 13 million children — were food insecure due to a lack of financial resources, according to the Food Research and Action Center.

The Food Research and Action Center is a Washington-based nonprofit organization working to improve public policies and public-private partnerships to eradicate hunger and improve nutrition in the United States.

On the positive side, there is growing evidence that broader use of federal child nutrition programs and food stamps can reduce both food insecurity and obesity. However, information about the links between food insecurity and obesity and how child nutrition programs can remedy both is not widely known.

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RWJF STRATEGY

RWJF is committed to tackling one of today's most pressing threats to the health of children and families — childhood obesity. The goal is to reverse the rise in childhood obesity rates by promoting healthy eating and physical activity in schools and communities throughout the nation.

RWJF places special emphasis on reaching children at greatest risk: African-American, Hispanic, Native American and Asian/Pacific Islander children living in low-income communities.

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THE PROJECT

Staff with the Food Research and Action Center wrote a 33-page white paper on the relationships between poverty, hunger and food insecurity, as well as the potential role of federal food nutrition programs in reducing both hunger and obesity.

To prepare the paper (entitled Obesity, Food Insecurity and the Federal Child Nutrition Programs: Understanding the Linkages), project staff conducted an extensive review and analysis of the research literature on the subject.

The paper is available online.

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FINDINGS

  • In 2004, 11.9 percent of households in the United States were food insecure.
  • Food insecurity in 2004 was more prevalent in central cities (15.4 percent) than in other areas, and in the South and West versus the Northeast and Midwest.
  • Rates of food insecurity were higher for households below the poverty line (36.8 percent); households with children headed by a single woman (33 percent); African-American households (23.7 percent); and Hispanic households (21.7 percent).
  • A number of studies have demonstrated a strong association between food insecurity and obesity among low-income women.
  • Food insecurity results in poor quality diets, compromised child and adult health, mental health problems and educational deficits among children.
  • Federal child nutrition programs can play a crucial role in preventing both food insecurity and obesity, as well as in increasing economic security and improving nutritional intake.

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AFTER THE GRANT

Project staff distributed the white paper in hard copy and/or electronically to several thousand anti-hunger organizations, academics, public health officials, government officials, policy-makers and funders. They also circulated about 500 copies to media outlets.

According to the project director, project staff will incorporate facts and findings from the white paper into their future work with anti-hunger advocates.

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GRANT DETAILS & CONTACT INFORMATION

Project

Developing a White Paper on Obesity, Hunger and Federal Child Nutrition Programs

Grantee

Food Research & Action Center (Washington,  DC)

  • Amount: $ 15,250
    Dates: August 2004 to September 2005
    ID#:  049725

Contact

Lynn Parker, M.S.
(202) 986-2200
LParker@frac.org

Web Site

http://www.frac.org/pdf/obesity05_paper.pdf

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

(Current as of date of this report; as provided by grantee organization; not verified by RWJF; items not available from RWJF.)

Reports

Obesity, Food Insecurity and the Federal Child Nutrition Programs: Understanding the Linkages. Washington: Food Research and Action Center, 2005. Available online.

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Report prepared by: Robert Crum
Reviewed by: Richard Camer
Reviewed by: Molly McKaughan
Program Officer: Terry L. Bazzarre

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