Grant Helps Schuster Study Connection of Hunger and Youth Obesity

How can kids suffer from hunger or food insecurity while at the same time suffer from childhood obesity? This is a question Deborah Schuster wanted to find answers to when she signed on to the “Kids Eat Right” campaign of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation. Schuster received a $200 grant to study the questions and take steps to help the problem. She was honored as an Every Day Hero for her efforts by the foundation. Schuster is a dietician for Memorial Hospital in Carthage, IL. “Dieticians can volunteer to be part of the campaign, in this case ‘Kids Eat Right. I wanted to combat and turn around the childhood obesity epidemic we are seeing in the U.S. Part of the duty to the campaign is to educate the public on the problem,” Schuster said.

She found it is quite possible and not rare to see hunger and obesity in the same child. “Eating habits that kids develop as a result of food insecurity can lead to obesity,” Schuster said. Food insecurity is a new term that implies the opposite of food security — having access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. “Those facing hunger, not having enough food on the table, these are the food insecure,” said Schuster. It is not just the homeless. Families on food stamps (SNAP) or who have limited resources can buy food at the beginning of the month, but have much less at the end.

“Therefore, children may eat a lot at the beginning of the month when food is available and that messes with their metabolism. Then when they do not have much to eat, it causes a drop in metabolism and they gain weight.” People who rely on food pantries to supplement what the government gives does not have a lot of fresh produce or whole grains to make good food choices, she said. The grant has helped Schuster work in the areas of education about the problem, and provide some information and recipes for low income families. Schuster has spoken about what she has learned to the Carthage Kiwanis who may find ways to help. The Food for Thoughts program ties in to her solution by giving nutritious snacks to children for the weekend.

“It was the Food for Thought that led me to be part of the campaign, to bring this to the public focus,” said Schuster. She has spoken to groups of staff at Memorial Hospital, and she is willing to talk to any other group about the issues. “It generated quite a bit of conversation among the two groups, making them aware of the challenge of obesity and hunger.” Anyone can help by thinking about what items they donate to food pantries and holiday food programs. “I recommend giving cans of fruits in their own juices as opposed to fruit in syrup that is just extra sugar. Donate whole grain cereals and breads. Give a variety of canned vegetables, not just green beans and peas.”

She recommends donating items, such as legumes or dried beans, which are an excellent source of protein, easy to prepare and less expensive as well as high in fiber and nutrition. To be sure moms can use these nutritious foods in a way that is simple and appealing to children, Schuster is working up sheets with recipes and suggestions. “We are providing recipes to food pantries specifically designed for foods from the SNAP program. They are inexpensive and easy to prepare ideas,” Schuster said. “Being able to plan menus and going out to buy foods just for those menus is a much more economical way to go.” Another concern is that many people are less familiar with basic cooking at home.

“In the past, girls growing up always knew how to cook because they helped mom. Now too often, cooking is just using the microwave to heat foods. Prepackages foods are less expensive and less nutritious and are high in sodium and carbohydrates,” said Schuster. Schuster said economic times have increased food insecurity. “Around 34 to 36 million people identified as being food insecure. After the recession and in 2008, it rose up to 50 million and has leveled off. Of those, 17 million are kids. That means one in five children is food insecure.” The Every Day Hero aware is a monthly recognition by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation. “It was great to get the grant, one of 25 out of thousands across the U.S. that applied,” said Schuster. “The earlier we can start good habits for kids, the better for establishing those good eating patterns for life.”


Tip of the Day

Less is more. Sauces, gravies, and dressings tend to be high in fat and sodium. Watch out for foods prepared with a lot of oil, butter, or topped with heavy condiments, such as mayonnaise. You don’t have to do away with sauces and condiments all together; just use less.

Daily Inspiration

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls”

~ Matthew 11:29

I must yield to him….surrender to him…give him control of  my life. Through that surrender I will find happiness!

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