Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sad facts of life in Texas. . .

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.

The Link:
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.



Frank Bellizzi said...

Larry, I have no doubt that your figures are correct. What I honestly wonder about is how this happens. My wife teaches at the poorest elementary school in Amarillo. Many of the students eat breakfast, lunch, and supper at school. I understand that's only about half of the days in the year. But still, it must go a long way toward easing the real problem you describe. Is school food part of the problem?

It irks me that one of the few decent grocery stores near the poor part of our city closed a long time ago. I think that has hurt Amarillo a lot.

Larry James said...

Frank, yes, school food is part of the problem and it's related to cost and ease of prep. Helping grocery markets, like the one you describe, survive might be a better use of public dollars than we've ever considered. It certainly argues for expansion of food stamp benefits. Those dollars go right to the grocer.