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Hunger

In 2010, over 48 million Americans including many millions of children had inadequate food or at times no food on a regular basis. Hunger increases the potential serious effects of environmental contaminants. In eight states and the District of Columbia, over 20% of the child population consistently go hungry. About 20% of Americans use at least one of the US Department of Agriculture nutrition assistance programs every year. About 50% of infants born in the United States get support from the Women, Infants, and Children Program. Some 55% of schoolchildren participate in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program, with 50% of the lunches and 71% of the breakfasts given free to the children. The hunger creates a huge cost to society as well as all the potential problems for our citizens who are food insecure. Although hunger is detrimental to all people, it is especially so to the developing child. (See endnote 33.)

Maternal undernutrition during pregnancy increases the risk of poor birth outcomes, including premature birth, low birth weight, smaller head size, and lower brain weight. Premature babies are at greater risk for a series of health problems and learning problems when they reach school age. During the first 3 years of life the brain develops very rapidly. If there is too little energy provided, or a lack of protein and nutrients, there are deficits in cognitive, social, and emotional development. This affects 5-10% of American children under the age of 3. Hungry children in school show 7-12 times as many symptoms of conduct disorders such as fighting, having problems with teachers, not following the rules, stealing, etc. as children who are properly nourished.

 
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