Jan Pruitt, President and CEO of the North Texas Food Bank and a key national player in the Feeding America, network of food banks, sent me a briefing paper (part of which follows below) that will inform some of our "educational efforts" with our legislators during their 2009 session.
Hunger is a huge challenge in Texas.
Food quality and health go hand-in-hand.
We've got to find ways to do more and to do better.
Consider our reality.
1 in 5 Texas children is medically obese. Many others suffer from overweight. As these children age, they will raise the number of obese Texas adults to 46.8%, contributing to a statewide annual cost to employers of $3.3 billion.
1 in 4 Texas children lives in a household without enough food. These children are more likely to have cognitive, motor, emotional and behavioral problems, multiple health deficiencies and poor grades. As these children age, they will exhibit lowered productivity and increased health care costs, contributing to a statewide annual cost of $9.8 billion.
Hunger, poverty and overweight among children have been positively linked in Texas and nationally. Thirty-one percent of low-income Texans report being unable to feed their children balanced meals ―sometimes or often. Without the means to purchase enough food, families adopt coping mechanisms, like reducing the quality of food purchased. This strategy makes financial sense: nutritious, fresh, unprocessed foods cost more than ten times the price of energy-dense junk foods on a per-calorie basis. As a result, families served by the Texas Food Bank Network spend an average of $466 less on healthy foods annually compared to the average Texas family.
Considering the "return on our investment" in the health and well-being of children and families ought to prompt us to action out of our own enlightened and pragmatic self-interest, leaving aside the humanitarian and ethical factors that should also be involved. Sometimes it seems to me that we just don't get it.