When Food Doesn’t Equal Nutrition: 3 Stories of Hunger in Central Maryland

When Food Doesn’t Equal Nutrition: 3 Stories of Hunger in Central Maryland

Date: October 20, 2016

When you don’t have enough food for yourself or your family, your first thought is most likely how to get a sufficient amount of sustenance — regardless of how healthy (or unhealthy) it may be.

That’s why the challenges of hunger and nutrition go hand in hand for many local families in central Maryland. When low-income families are able to access food, it doesn’t always include affordable, nutritious options. And while nutrition can seem like a secondary issue to sufficient food access, it can cause a chain reaction leading to other issues, including obesity, dental issues, mental health problems and more.

Take the following three stories for example. These local individuals and families all experienced challenges accessing food — particularly healthy food. While their stories have a happy ending, they point to the need for continued support and food assistance in our local community.

Franny

In Baltimore City, Franny can walk to a half dozen fast food restaurants, and there are plenty of corner stores selling everything from potato chips to soft drinks, too. But when it came to finding fresh fruits and vegetables, Franny was out of luck.

Franny, like an estimated one out of four Baltimore City residents, lives in what’s called a “food desert” — neighborhoods where it’s difficult to find affordable, high-quality, fresh food. And the challenge only grows from there: When families don’t have nutritious foods, kids often have a hard time focusing in school and don’t have the energy they need to learn and grow.

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Arthur and Olivia

After Arthur and Olivia’s daughter abandoned her five children, the couple took their grandchildren into their own home. While they were happy to step in and help, feeding five extra mouths on a limited income was something that Arthur, an army veteran, and Olivia hadn’t prepared for. After they experienced a cut to their social service benefits, the family was unable to pay rent, gas and electric bills, and could no longer provide enough food for the entire household.

It’s a common scenario for too many families in Maryland, where nearly 21 percent of households with children struggle to obtain enough food to provide regular, healthy meals.  Many adults earn low wages that don’t cover food costs for the week and are forced to choose between poor nutrition or hunger. To add to the challenge, some seniors must choose between buying food and paying for medicines.

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Bonnie

At $21 an hour, Bonnie had been making enough money at her company to support herself and her family. But when the company cut back on her hours, the single mother of three had to rely on food stamps to feed her family. And while the program allowed her to put food on the table, Bonnie found that she now couldn’t afford the healthier options her previous wages allowed her to buy.

About 14.5 percent of Americans — roughly 46.5 million people — rely on food stamps, but research shows that on average, participants consume fewer fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and more foods with added sugars than the general population. In addition, both children and adults on food stamps are less likely to eat three meals a day than those who aren’t enrolled in the program.

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As you can read in their full stories, these individuals and families have been able to gain access to ample, nutritious food through United Way of Central Maryland programs.

You can be part of that continued change in our local community. Learn how to get involved with United Way of Central Maryland by donating financially or volunteering your time.

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