Exacerbations in health disparities were showcased during the 2020 pandemic, with data showing an increase in food insecurity in households with children, despite overall numbers not showing a significant bump upwards in food insecurity rates.
In an interview with HCPLive®, Ryan Buchholz, MD, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Unity Health Care, noted that the numbers show approximate 1 in 7 households with children experienced food insecurity in 2020, including 20% of Black households and more than 25% of single parent households.
Buchholz recently presented a talk linking food insecurity to excess body mass at the 2021 American Academy of Pediatrics Virtual Meeting.
Additionally, he pointed out the increase in excess body mass doubled in children between 2 – 19 years of age compared to the year prior and ultimately, laid out a few potential theories in the immediate connection.
“Obviously, less food availability and affordability can draw families towards more calorically dense, less healthy foods, he said. “Then, there is also a physiologic response to stress that increases the release of stress hormones and potentially increases appetite.”
Moreover, Buchholz discussed the risk of food swamps, where food is accessible, but there is lower quality food and less healthy options available to families. He indicated that some social programs, such as preventive food pantries, are ways that some communities most at-risk are taking on food insecurity issues.
He noted increased time indoors stemming from the pandemic also affected children’s health, with limited access to outdoor spaces and increased screen times may have negatively affected children’s body mass.
Then, Buchholz spoke on comorbid factors affecting children who are dealing with food insecurity, from a rating of poor health to conditions like diabetes and depression.
“Food insecurity is associated with many poor health outcomes in children, Buchholz said “It’s associated with anemia, asthma, a rating of fair or poor health, cognitive issues and then other behavioral outcomes like aggression, anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation.”