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Hungry Kids Can’t Keep Up

How often we hear someone say, “Our children are our future.”

And that is true – up to a point. Not all kids have what they need in order to grow into their full potential.

Christy Inda knows this. She’s a licensed dietitian and director of health promotion and disease prevention at Waimanalo Health Center. Inda works closely with Hawaii Foodbank and says kids who don’t know where their next meal is coming from, or even if there’ll be a next meal, don’t have time or energy to worry about the future.

“They can’t be the future if they’re doing poorly in school because they haven’t had breakfast, or are just hungry all day so they can’t concentrate,” says Inda. “They can’t do well if they’re not getting enough nutrients, or are fatigued because they don’t have enough iron in their diets.”

In other words, a malnourished child is potentially lost to us.

Children who are “food insecure” may be too busy trying to get enough to eat, or are eating the wrong kinds of foods, to excel in school or in life.

Inda says there’s a misconception among many in the public that only people who are literally starving are in need of food assistance. The truth is way more complicated. Don’t be fooled, she says, by appearances. People who are overweight very well may be malnourished.

That’s because those who have limited income aren’t able to afford the fruits and vegetables or quality proteins they need to be healthy.

“The message we get a lot is eating healthy is so expensive,” Inda says.

Food insecurity often leads to complications such as obesity and diabetes, and to stress. It’s a vicious cycle.

“The stress in itself is something that can lead to health problems, possibly triggering overeating,” explains Inda. “And overeating the wrong things leads to health problems. The quality of what they can afford is very poor. While they may be getting enough calories, that food may be higher in fat, salt, sugar. They’re not good-quality calories.”

That’s why food agencies, including Hawaii Foodbank, usually will request that if you donate canned goods, to please give canned fruits, vegetables and proteins – foods you could put on your own table.

Donating money is a good alternative because the agency can purchase the higher-quality foods in bulk, and at substantial discounts.

I bring this to your attention as we gear up for our next Hawaii Foodbank Food Drive, coming April 20.

There also is another good reason to donate right now to Hawaii Foodbank.

For the 16th consecutive year, Alan Shawn Feinstein is giving away $1 million to fight hunger. You can help Hawaii earn a portion of that million-dollar pie by sending in your donation before April 30.

The more you give, the more our state receives from the Feinstein Foundation.

According to “Hunger in Hawaii 2010,” there are more than 55,000 children who are hungry or food insecure in our state.

That’s a lot, and it’s a shame. But the great news is we can do something about it.

And by the way, if you and your family need food assistance and you’re confused about how or where to get it, call 211.

It’s Aloha United Way’s statewide community information and referral service and it is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

It’s not just for food. Referral specialists can help you with issues involving domestic violence, financial problems, substance abuse and more. If you need it, try it. It’s there for you.