Amid a bustle of volunteers and attendees at the Oregon Nutrition Education Program’s Food Hero program, running in tandem with Oregon Food Bank’s local drop site, a child accepts a sample of simple corn chowder made with the same ingredients his mom can find in her cupboard. He’s not the only child that’s accompanied his parent to the drop-site on their way home from work/school/extracurricular activities; among the poverty-stricken, children seem to be affected the most. To what extent does poverty affect the health of children, and how can we go about influencing this in a positive way? That was the question I asked after working closely with low-income migrant workers, and the youth they raise.
Poverty certainly affected my health as a child – born in a single-mother household, with one older sister, I can remember times when we relied on Oregon Food Bank donations just like the people I had come to help myself. Becoming obese early on, and not entirely knowing the connection between the high sodium, high calorie, low cost foods that lined my homes’ shelves and the number returned on the old white analog scale. I wondered how many of the kids I was seeing during the 3pm – 6pm Food Hero program felt the same way, or asked the same questions.
With my own personal history in this area, it wasn’t difficult for me to figure out how I should help out – the real question was where, and why.
Nichols, Memorie, Aryeh D. Stein, and Judith L. Wold. “Health Status of Children of Migrant Farm Workers: Farm Worker Family Health Program, Moultrie, Georgia.” American Journal of Public Health 104.2 (2014): 365-70. EBSCO Host. PCC, Feb. 2014. Web. 6 Mar. 2015. Through this academic journal, published by the American Journal of Academic Health, it is shown that on average, the children of migrant workers have a higher propensity to be obese. With the rising Mexican-American demographic, and a high prevalence of migrant workers in the Portland metro area, this raises cause for concern within our community.
Lee, Hedwig, Megan Andrew, Achamyeleh Gebremariam, Julie Lemong, and Joyce Lee. “Longitudinal Associations Between Poverty and Obesity From Birth Through Adolescence.” American Journal of Public Health 104.5 (2014): 70-76. EBSCO Host. PCC, May 2014. Web. 5 Mar. 2015. In this academic piece, also published by the American Journal of Public Health, it is made clear that poverty and socioeconomic class have powerful affects on the development of children in terms of their health. Not just focusing on a specific ethnicity, this covers and describes the woes of the entirety of childhood development, and stresses action through it’s implications.
Anderson, Jennifer. “Free for Lunch?” Editorial. Portland Tribune. N.p., 23 Oct. 2014. Web. 5 Mar. 2015. In this article published by the Portland Tribune, we see an emerging attempt to increase the availability of nutritious foods to low income children; Portland schools have begun serving free lunch to all students, regardless whether or not they qualify. This has extended to providing breakfast, and has become a larger initiative throughout the metropolitan area.
How to Get Involved
Getting involved in the health and well-being of our community’s children is paramount to our future. Regardless of your current financial position, or work-intensive schedule, you can help in a variety of ways – some free, others requiring only time.
- Write a letter to your Senator. This might seem over said, but it’s completely free, and raises awareness of an issue at the highest possible level. Help others. Buy a stamp. Write a letter. Or, more conveniently, visit merkley.senate.gov/contact/
- Donate to groups like Ecotrust, a farm-to-table initiative in Oregon that actively works to partner farms and larger institutions like schools to promote consumption of sustainable, local produce. To learn more about Ecotrust, and even donate, visit ecotrust.org
- Contact and volunteer with groups like the Oregon Nutrition Education Program, or the Oregon Food Bank; they’re always looking for more volunteers. Visit www.extension.oregonstate.edu/nep/
- Donate your excess food to the Oregon Food Bank. Everything helps. For information on volunteering or donating, visit oregonfoodbank.org