Food insecurity is the biggest determinant of health.
Adequate nutrition is a foundation for health. Food insecurity in children is especially concerning as it can lead to short and long-term vitamin and mineral deficiencies, impacting their physical and emotional health, as well as their academic outcomes.
Take iron, for example. Iron helps the red blood cells carry oxygen to the rest of the body. Iron deficiency anemia occurs when the body doesn’t get enough iron, making it very difficult to concentrate and participate in activities. Sadly, this type of iron deficiency is more prevalent in children that come from families that are facing food insecurity.
Short-term symptoms of iron deficiency anemia include:
- Weakness and Fatigue
- Dizziness or light-headedness
- Shortness of breath and chest pain
If you notice any of these symptoms in your child, please see a doctor.
Long-term symptoms of iron deficiency anemia can result in:
- Stunted growth
- Compromised brain development
These long-term effects can lead to delays in reading and poor school performance, impacting a child for years to come.
The best way to prevent iron deficiency anemia is through making sure your child’s diet includes healthy sources of iron. Most people think of getting iron from red meat and poultry which can be expensive and harder to keep fresh, but there are many options for getting iron from plant sources which can be especially effective when eaten with a source of Vitamin C like citrus fruits or juices, strawberries, broccoli or tomatoes.
Here are some ideas for iron sources in non-perishable foods:
- Canned tuna
- Fortified breakfast cereals (all commercial dry cereals are fortified with iron)
- Pumpkin seeds
- Baked Beans
- Peanut Butter
I Can for Kids provides many of the above items in our food packs to ensure hungry kids in Calgary are getting iron rich sources of food in the summer months.
To learn more about the impact childhood hunger and how you can make a difference in the lives of thousands of hungry kids this summer, visit www.icanforkids.ca.
Melissa Conniff, RD, MBA
Calgary Family Nutrition