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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Watching Dr Oz 11/29/11: America's Hunger Crisis – The Frightening Reality and How You Can Help Today

The Dr. Oz Show
Air date: November 29, 2011
The New Face of Hunger in America

  • 20 cities with the hungriest kids
  • Health impacts of hunger
  • Helping is easier than you think

It's the happiest city on Earth, right? Orlando, Florida, home to Disney World is also filled with families barely making ends meet. Learn more about the new fact of hunger in America, the face of children going without food in one of the world's richest country, and learn what you can do to help.

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The Thompson family lives in Orlando: mom, dad and three kids. They are barely making ends meet. Her husband said that growing up the idea of hunger never crossed him mind, he could never think it possible for his family. There are days when the parents in this family go hungry so that their kids may eat.

Looking back in time, they were doing well. At one point they were making $100,000 year in the real estate business. We all know the story of that industry. Now they are out of work and almost out of a house.

The family lives off food stamps. Dad doesn't like to go shopping because of the embarrassment of using the food stamp benefit card. [Working in retail for a decade, I've got to say that I never looked down on people who used food stamps, in fact just the opposite. Everyone goes through hard times and it's hard to ask for help. It was nice to see that people were using the available programs and trying their best to feed their family healthy foods.]

Mom has become resourceful with preparing foods. She can feed five people for two weeks on three whole chickens. One chicken leg quarter can feed the family for two days. Sometimes a meal is a plate of celery, some carrots and some nuts. When the food stamps run out they go without food.

Dad says the two younger kids are not likely going to remember these times but their older son will probably experience a lasting impact.

The parents visit the local food bank for more food. They are embarrassed to ask for the help. Mom has always been the one to donate food and clothing to such organizations and never thought she would need their help. She doesn't want to stand in line and ask for food. Crumbling to the sidewalk, she cries hysterically saying I don't want to go in there. It's heartbreaking.

Cut to the next view, and she is in line with her husband. She says she has to put her feelings and humiliation aside and do whatever it takes to feed her kids.

Dr. Oz says he was shocked to see the list of the top 20 cities with children going hungry. The middle class is no longer immune to hunger. He introduces Bill Shore, Founder and CEO of Share Our Strength, a non-profit organization working to end childhood hunger.

Mr. Shore says that over 46 million Americans are living below the poverty level. Ten years ago that figure was 36 million. Over 10 million more people are living on less and going hungry. The picture is getting worse, not better. In this crisis, children are suffering more. Half the recipients of food stamp benefits are children.

[Share Our Strength began in 1984 by brother-sister team Bill and Debbie Shore with a belief that childhood hunger could end by the year 2015. With programs throughout the nation, the organization is working to bring free meal to schools including breakfast, lunch as well as food to school children during the summer. The White House has joined the effort with the Chefs Move To Schools program which brings top chefs from around the country into schools to teach children how to chose health foods and how to prepare them.

It sounds as if Chef Andy, who appeared on The Dr. Oz Show on 11/18/11, took part in this White House program to bring nutrition education to schools.]

A school principal shared the experience of having to talk to a student who's only answers on a test that day was don't know, don't care. The child had not eaten that day and did not eat the night before. He wasn't able or interested in thinking or taking the test with an empty belly.

Mr. Shore says that in country of abundant resources it doesn't make sense that so many children are going hungry. There is poverty in places where it hasn't been before and these cities have no infrastructure to deal with the demand. In Detroit, there are are services to support hungry families but in the top 20 cities, listed below, there are no services in place to provide help.

There is also the issue of pride and a stigma attached to these kids who go into school early for a free breakfast and therefore many do not take advantage of the service. If a grab and go meal was provided just before classes started, more children may be willing to take part. School meal programs have been around for 30 but are not being utilized.

The White family moved to Tulsa, OK to make a new start. Dad Scott, Mom Misty and five kids found less work and lower wages. They look like a normal family but they are struggling. Misty was going to attend a free nursing program but now is living hand to mouth.

At the children's school, 90% of the students take pare in the free lunch program. The principal knows that on Friday some kids aren't going to eat again until Monday morning when they return to school. One of the White children says now that I'm eating lunch my stomach feels happy.

Dad goes without lunch, often, to make the money last through to the next payday. Mom says that for her to get a job would require the children to go to daycare costing a potential of $1,200 per month. Financially a job for her doesn't make sense.

They never thought they would be in this position. It's a constant struggle to keep the children's minds off the hunger. After dinner, the kids say they are still hungry.

Dad says he has to swallow his pride and he can make it work. He wants other families to know that you can work through it, accept the help.

Health Impacts of Hunger

The Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center [voted by US News & World Report among the best hospitals in the nation] is located in Winston-Salem, NC, the number one city on the top 20 cities for childhood hunger list. There, Dr. Meggan Goodpasture and her team try to find food for families in their care, they see this everyday in the clinic. Instead of doing kid stuff, the children are worrying about where their next meal is coming from. Dr. Goodpasture says she can't imagine the stress this issue is causing for so many families. She says hearing about a kid going hungry is horrifying.

In the US, 60 million kids are struggling with hunger, that's 1 in 5 children. Families look to the clinic for guidance to find food. The clinic staff works with families to connect them with resources to help them get through. Dr. Goodpasture says it's hard to hear kids tell her about being hungry on weekends when there's no school and later in the month when both the food and the money has run out.

The effects of hunger on children goes far beyond and a belly ache. Dr. Oz says hunger is striping our children of their vitality.

Dr. Goodpasture explains that skipping one meal can have an impact on the child's growth. Imagine all that is happening in a child's body. They are growing teeth, growing bones, growing in height. She says children are not just miniature adults, they need three meals a day a two snacks to ensure proper nutrition to support everything their bodies need to do.
Emotionally, hunger can cause anxiety, depression and apathy. Physically, hunger can cause a child to lose weight, to lose height, to waste away. These effects can be long-term. Head circumference can decrease and brain development suffers.

Dr. Oz showed an animation of the physical effects of hunger. Hair will thin during prolonged hunger. The skin will thin, cuts won't heal as fast ans they should and a small bump will easily turn into a bruise. Less sugar and carbohydrate intake equates to lowered levels of glucose – brain fuel. The body will eat up muscle to provide nutrients to the brain creating a heavier load on the liver to metabolize fats. Muscles shrink and the liver is overloaded. The heart beat has less power and is less effective. Frightening.

With hunger comes nutrient deficiency, in particular Vitamin D deficiency. Dr. Goodpasture explains that Vitamin D is critical for bone health and a deficiency allow for the development of rickets, weakened bones, deformity or curvature of the bones and muscle pain.

Dr. Oz shared that it can take as little as $5 a day to provide a child with three meals and a snack that gives the minimum nourishment requirement.

Breakfast for $0.75: low-fat milk, oatmeal, an egg and apple slices.
Providing Vitamin D, Vitamin A, iron, and fiber. If fresh fruit is too expensive then frozen is a great alternative.

Lunch for $1.25: carrots, low-fat milk, peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat and orange wedges.
Provides Vitamin A, and the Vitamin C in the orange helps to absorb the iron in the whole wheat bread.

Dinner for $3.10: canned chicken soup with brown rice and veggies, cheese on toast and milk. Add low-sodium canned beans, use frozen veggies.

[Dr. Oz said this dinner utilized canned soup. Thinking within a family, say one of the families in the example with three kids and two adults that would be $15.50 for dinner. But if they opted to make their own chicken soup they could get more for their money. If they opted for a vegetarian soup with beans for the protein then they could stretch their money even further.]

Snack for $0.90: sliced fruit, peanut butter on crackers, a half sandwich with cheese or lean meat.

Pam, a teacher at Lexington Middle School in Winston-Salem, NC (again, #1 city on the list) heard her students say that their mothers were getting skinny because they skipped meals so their children could be fed. That hurt to hear. She saw kids who were lethargic and couldn't learn because they were hungry so she bought snacks to hand out to kids when they were hungry.

Pam worked with local food banks to start a backpack food program. On Friday's, children in need would receive a backpack with four meals (two lunches and two breakfasts) so they could eat over the weekend. How can children learn and become the citizens we want them to become without food, without proper nutrition?

Hunger in Schools
Share Our Strength decided 35 years ago to feed our kids. The military, actually, brought about the national school meal program when they saw a need in their own families and worked to bring about a national change. Over 20 million children are eligible for free meals but not all of them are getting it. Breakfast, lunch and summer meals are available yet due to time constraints in getting to school early or simple pride and embarrassment much of this vital resource goes unused.

Eight billion dollars are set aside for the national school meal program, but few take advantage of free breakfast.

Linda put aside her own needs to help in her community in Los Angeles, CA. She has been married for 28 years and has four kids. Two years and eight months ago she lost her job. Fourteen months ago her husband lost his job. The went from an income of $98,000 to $21,000. They used to have a house and now they live in a mobile home. What's for dinner begs the question what do we not pay in order to eat.

Linda started asking local businesses to donate food to begin a food pantry which is now the largest in the area. She says this is her calling, it saved her.

The Solution is Easier Then You Think

Donate, volunteer, talk to legislators to help get food to these hungry children.

Dr. Oz is encouraging his viewers to keep the conversation going with him on Twitter @DrOz using #drozhunger. Share your ideas on Twitter. He says we can make a difference and rise above the trauma, the challenges.

How can you can provide 1 million meals for the hungry? Donate to Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry campaign to help end hunger in America by 2015.

Mr. Scott says we can beat hunger because we know the solution and the solution is funding. Dr. Oz wants his viewers to give $5.00 which can help provide 50 meals to hungry children. [Every donation between now and December 31 will be matched dollar for dollar by partners in the No Kid Hungry campaign.

Dr. Oz audience members brought food for an entire week and UPS is sending food to the families featured on the show.

If you are hungry and need help, contact the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3 HUNGRY (1-866-348-6479)

Dr. Oz says childhood hunger is a health crisis that we can solve if everyone takes action and shows up in a child's life, give them the gift of good health. Help Dr. Oz end hunger.

The Food and Action Research Center, as part of their Campaign to End Childhood Hunger, compiled data for a report titled Food Hardship in America 2010 published August 2011. These top 25 cities are from that report and represent the cities with the Highest Rates of Food Hardship in Households with Children, 2009-2010.

1. Winston-Salem, NC
2. Orlando-Kissimmee, FL
3. Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL
4. Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA
5. Fresno, CA
6. Las Vegas-Paradise, NV
7. Louisville-Jefferson County, KY-IN
8. New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, LA
9. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA
10. Birmingham-Hoover, AL
11. Bakersfield, CA
12. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL
13. Knoxville, TN
14. Tulsa, OK
15. Tucson, AZ
16. Memphis, TN-MS-AR
17. Greensboro-High Point, NC
18. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA
19. Albuquerque, NM
20. Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL
21. Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ
22. Dayton, OH
23. Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX
24. Jacksonville, FL
25. Ogden-Clearfield, UT


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  1. I was so impressed with the show last night reagarding the children that are hungry it brakes my heart, how can I help or to establish and find out in my community where I live in Pleasanton,CA how to get somethng started. Kids should never feel hungry its a terriable thing, and the family that have been ruined by this depression we are having in our country, their shhould be more help. its gon on for too long.
    Jeanne Hyland

  2. Hi Jeanne,
    Yesterday's episode was indeed impressive. I applaud you for wanting to help your community.

    To find out what is happening in your community I would encourage you to call your local school district and start asking questions. Find out if they already have a free meal program in place already and go from there.

    If there is not a program in place, you could start by meeting with the school district to start a conversation and work together on writing a letter to the editor to your local paper. Share Our Strength's website has a sample letter you could use:
    From there I would imagine that you could work with the school district to apply for a slice of the available public funding

    If there is or isn't a program in place, you could work with local stores and restaurants to generate food donations to increase community participation and increase support for the program.

    If you need more help, perhaps the folks at Share Our Strength would be a great resource. There are probably programs already in place in the Bay Area and you may have some luck in contacting other school districts (San Francisco, Oakland, etc.) to gain ideas and network.

    I used to live in San Ramon, so I'm familiar with the area. There are, no doubt, many families, and especially children, in need of help in the area and no shortage of businesses to work with.

    Good luck! I would love to hear about your progress and what you find out! Please keep me updated!