The Relationship between Hunger & Health

Planted exists because we want to bring together a passion for food and a concern for those in our city who are hungry, malnourished, or in short supply of quality food. We all know the discomfort of an empty stomach, but do we realize the far reaching implications of chronic hunger and poverty?

Here are a few:

1. Hungry people are more vulnerable to engaging in risky behaviours, such as eating food from dumpsters, eating expired food, engaging in theft, or prostitution.

2. Hungry people may lack the money to buy quality food, clean water, and hygiene supplies, and likely have few resources to fall back on if they get injured or ill.

3. Hungry people may experience a decreased quality of life, as they may sacrifice quality food in order to meet other needs.

4. Irregular eating habits may cause fluctuating blood sugar levels, which can cloud one’s thought processes, cause irreversible damage to ones eyesight, kidneys, and other vital organs, and contribute to anti-social behaviour.

5. Hungry people have weaker immune systems, and are more susceptible to infectious diseases; illnesses hit harder, get severe faster, and return more frequently.

6. Hungry people who are also sick have higher nutritional requirements – overall calories, good quality protein (a luxury for the poor), micronutrients, and fluids.

7. Hungry people who are also sick cannot tolerate strong medicine; empty stomachs contribute to side effects and discourage people from adhering to treatment requirements.

8. Hungry people who are also sick may be unable to prepare nutritious food for themselves, orwork to maintain their income, plus may face stigma or discrimination, depending on the nature of their illness.

9. Malnourished, infected pregnant or nursing mothers increase the risk of infecting their children.

10. Children born to malnourished mothers may have low birthweights and developmental complications or delays.

11. Hungry students do less well in school, leading to poor life outcomes.

12. Hungry people may lack the mental, emotional and/or spiritual reserves to care for themselves and their dependants.

13. Hungry people may lack the social capital to help them access available resources.

Adapted from “Names, Not Just Numbers: Facing Global AIDS & World Hunger” (Donald E. Messer, 2010)

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