Help Bring Healthy Choices to Hungry Kids in the U.S.

Child Hunger in America

Child Hunger Rates in the US

Across the United States, families are struggling to feed their children healthy meals. Fresh fruits and vegetables are expensive, and many communities do not have full-service grocery stores that stock fresh produce. For the more than 6.5 million U.S. children living in food deserts — areas that are more than a mile away from a grocery store — eating healthy isn’t an option and malnutrition is a way a of life.

Every child deserves a chance at a healthy start. To help combat hunger and malnutrition right here in our communities, Save the Children has designed programs to promote healthy habits for kids in America. Our Healthy Choices program exposes children to healthier ways of living through activity, nutrition lessons and access to nutritious, balanced food choices so they can be healthy and active in both learning and life. Eating well and being physically active at an early age helps children focus, improve attendance, boost academic performance and grow up to be healthy adults.

How Many Children in America Are Malnourished?

How can you be malnourished and obese at the same time? Turns out, for 1 in 3 kids in America, it’s pretty easy. When kids live in poverty — when struggling families have to make the choice between putting cheaper, unhealthy food on the table or no food at all — making healthy choices for kids isn’t a choice at all. As a result, more than half of children living below the poverty line in rural America are overweight or obese.

Child Hunger is a Growing Problem

  • Over 4.5 million U.S. kids live in food deserts and lack access to grocery stores with fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • On average, children in rural areas are more likely to experience food insecurity and lack access to quality health services.
  • Close to 1 in 3 American children is overweight or obese, and obesity in children has more than tripled over the past 35 years, putting children at higher risk for serious, even life-threatening health problems.
  • In communities where Save the Children works, an average of 59 percent of children do not have access to fresh, healthy foods; in some areas, it’s as much as 98 percent.

How to Stop Child Malnutrition in America

Save the Children is fighting hunger, malnutrition and childhood obesity through the effective combination of practice and policy. Save the Children began offering the Healthy Choices health program in schools in 2005. Today, Healthy Choices operates afterschool and summer programs in 10 states. We use research-based CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) curricula and provide children with 30 minutes or more of daily moderate-to-vigorous physical activity that teaches lifelong movement skills and combines fun and fitness.

In addition to physical activity, children participating in Healthy Choices receive a daily, healthy snack and also participate in weekly nutrition education. Through exposure to healthy snacks and nutrition lessons, children are empowered to make good food choices and lead healthier lives.
Learn about some of the nutritious foods that make our healthy choices for kids top ten list:
Ten Power-Packed (and Kid-Friendly) Snacks

Advocating for Hungry Kids in America

In addition to Save the Children’s Healthy Choices program, our advocacy work enlists and inspires local communities across the country to enact policies that benefit all children. Together, we aim to accelerate state and local policy change to increase children’s access to affordable, healthy food.

From Candy to Cucumbers: Macy's Story

Macy, 6, from Kentucky had never eaten a cucumber before enrolling in the Healthy Choices program. Like many kids living in poverty, she grew up eating cheaper, less healthy foods and preferred candy or ice cream as a snack. In our Healthy Choices program, Save the Children offered healthy choices for kids like Macy and encouraged them to try new foods.

Once Macy took the plunge, she discovered that cucumbers and other vegetables “taste pretty good” and even urged her mom to stock up on fresh produce at home. Macy exclaimed: 'You'll never know if you like something until you try it!'

Success Story: Whitney’s Transformation

When Whitney, a fourth grader from Mississippi, enrolled in our afterschool Healthy Choices program for kids, eating a healthy snack was definitely not on her menu. She preferred chips, candy and sugary soda. Every day, before having her snack, the fourth grader headed to the nurse’s office to get her blood pressure taken. Overweight and out of shape, Whitney was unable to keep up with the rest of her classmates during physical activities. But by the end of the school year, Whitney made great strides toward becoming a healthy kid. She learned to love nutritious snacks and now encourages her mother to buy fresh fruits when they go to the grocery store. Thanks to her new healthy habits, she lost weight and daily blood pressure checkups are no longer necessary. As a result of a few simple lifestyle changes, Whitney no longer avoids exercise because it’s too challenging — instead she’s asking if she can do another lap around the gym.

Sources
1. 2012: Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Kit BK, Flegal KM. Prevalence of childhood and adult obesity in the United States.
2. 2015: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration.
3. 1999: National Association for Sport and Physical Education. The Fitness Equation: Physical Activity + Balanced Diet = Fit Kids.
4. 2010: Kaiser Family Foundation.
5. 2015: U.S. Department of Agriculture. Creating Access to Healthy, Affordable Food.

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