Childhood Hunger: What it means in Salt River

by apech on June 21, 2011

by Brandon Boatman, CDM, CFPP

In 2010, usage of the Salt River Food Distribution Program (SRFDP) was at an all-time high.  Although emergency demand has steadied during fiscal year 2011, the SRFDP is still seeing an average increase in usage of 11 percent, making 2011 a new all-time high.  More staggering is the fact that between 2008 and 2010, the annual usage of the SRFDP has increased by 70 percent.

The SRFDP does not foresee this growth stopping anytime soon.  In fact, according to last year’s Census report, Arizona’s poverty rate is the second highest in the nation (1). Unfortunately, those who are most vulnerable in this uncertain economic climate are the youth.  In Arizona, one in four children is known to be food insecure.  Here in Salt River, 51 percent of eligible food program participants are children under the age of 18.  This means 1 out of every 2 households receiving food distribution contains a minor child.

Food insecurity is a term used by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).  The term describes food insecurity as “limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, or limited or uncertain availability to acquire acceptable food in an acceptable way.” (2) More simply, food insecurity is the lack of a consistent and safe food source.  Everyone needs access to healthful and safe food to thrive.  This is especially true of children, who are still growing and need adequate nutrition for their health and education.

Childhood food insecurity is known to have long term consequences and can impact the health of a child in a multitude of ways.  Hungry children spend more time hospitalized.  They also have an increased need for behavioral health services, such as professional intervention for depression and anxiety disorders, as well as other social and psychological problems. (2)

One of the most alarming emerging trends is the evidence that childhood food insecurity co-exists with the childhood obesity epidemic. (3)  Over the last two decades, the incidence of obesity in children between the ages of 6-11 years has doubled.  Recent studies have observed a connection between obese children and their nutritional status, which only adds to their “at-risk” status. In addition to the common health problems associated with childhood hunger, the children who are also obese are at greater risk for cardiovascular disease, as well as issues with bone and joint health, sleep disorders and additional social disorders, like low self-esteem. (4)

The possible link between childhood obesity and childhood food insecurity is especially distressing for the Salt River Community, as 76 percent of the cases of the diabetes cases in Native American children between the ages of 10-19 years were type 2, according to the SEARCH for Diabetes Youth Study. (4)  Addressing this epidemic takes a village, and at the SRFDP, we are dedicated to providing healthful foods to our emergency food customers.  In fact, the majority of the bread we receive is whole wheat and the milk we distribute is 1 percent or low fat.  Furthermore, we offer fresh produce almost every week basis, courtesy of United Food Bank’s Mobile Pantry program.  When the produce we receive is considered “unfamiliar,” the SRFDP tries to provide a quick and healthful recipe for customers.

Donations are always welcome at the SRFDP and go to assist Community members and their families who reside within Community boundaries.  Come in during the 4th Tuesday of the month from 12pm-1pm and the SRFDP also offers nutrition education classes, including cooking and basic nutrition classes, like reading food labels.  We are dedicated to finding ways to end childhood food insecurity within the Community through food distribution and communication. If you have any questions about our program, call 480-362-7566 or email



1. Knopf RC, Simpson B. An empty table: second highest poverty rate means more Arizonans experience              hunger. Arizona Indicators Policy Points. 2010; 2(6).

2. Eisenmann JC, Gundersen C, Lohman BJ, Garasky S, Stewart SD. Is food insecurity related to overweight and obesity in children and adolescents? A summary of studies, 1995-2009. Obesity Reviews. 2011; 12: e73-e83.

3.  Larson NI, Story MT. Food insecurity and weight status among U.S. children and families: a review of the literature. Am J Prev Med. 2011; 40(2): 166-173.

4. Albright A. Biological and social exposures in youth set the stage for premature chronic disease. J Am Diet Assoc. 2008; 108: 1843-1845.

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