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LexCares2

Everyone has the right to a good meal.

Non-profit organization
Plays major role in feeding thousands of families in Atlanta and North Georgia.
18.7% of the people living in Georgia are food insecure, meaning that they do not always know where they will find their next meal
28.2% of Georgia children live in food insecure households.

Service network including more than 400 nonprofit organizations and schools
Meal preparation and delivery to disabled and elderly
Mentorship programs
Park preservation
Book donations

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Consequences of Hunger

Many of us have seen those Snickers' commercials where people do

unexpected things as a result of being hungry, right?

Well, there are many behavioral and health issues associated with being hungry.

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There was one particular week where I felt incredibly stressed and anxious, and because of that I wasn't hungry and couldn't sleep. Can you imagine the effects of hunger and sleep deprivation together? Not only was I sleepy, but because I wasn't eating, within 2 days I noticed that I was more likely to forget things. I work in customer service, but I was easily annoyed by having to speak to anyone, and I found myself spacing out every few minutes, thinking about things that had nothing to do with my job.

Typically, hunger and poverty go hand in hand. I was thinking about the effects of hunger and sleep deprivation on me. Fortunately for me, I'm not in a position to also have to worry about financial stress, but there are many people who are facing food insecurity as a result of low income, which, as I've mentioned in previous entries, causes these people to have to make tough decisions between food and paying the rent, food and medication, food and gas for the car, etc.

So, what are the consequences of hunger and stress?

"Kids who are hungry often experience headaches, fatigue, frequent colds, and other illnesses that may cause them to be less physically active."

When your body is not receiving the nourishment and nutrition it needs, focusing on tasks becomes harder, you can be irritable and more aggressive, and you run the risk of getting sick more often. The body doesn't have the fuel to build muscle and fight off infections. Children who are malnourished suffer in this way, and expecting mothers who were malnourished during pregnancy deliver underweight babies who often have stunted growth. 

Hunger makes it difficult to concentrate, so kids who are hungry often fall behind in their studies and struggle with behavioral problems.

For kids and adults, the lack of nutrition makes the body weak and unable to fight against illness. Kids who get sick often will miss school, falling even further behind. Hungry adults will not be able to focus to be effective at work and may also be more prone to sickness, calling out sick and missing work days. (Info from here.)

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Are you surprised by any of the consequences of hunger?

I'm not surprised by the effects of hunger because I've experienced them firsthand. When I make changes to my diet or schedule, I practice mindfulness and try to pay attention to how my body feels or doesn't feel. If I eat something with artificial sugar, I notice that I feel more tired throughout the day. If I feel stressed, I crave sweet foods. If I don't drink enough water, I crave salty foods. I've been fortunate enough to be able to have enough access to food to know how it will generally affect my body, but there are a lot of people who would love to have something to eat first. Then, worry about the effects later.

We joke about people "not being themselves" when they're hungry, but really take a moment to think about how hunger affects us, how we interact with others, and how others interact with us. 

We can be mean. We can be irritable. We be aggressive. We can be inattentive. We can be sleepy. We can be weird(er)!

There are so many consequences to hunger, and if we experience the wrong effects we could end up damaging relationships with one another. The workplace becomes volatile if negative interactions caused by hunger make coworkers treat each other badly, which can seep into the rest of the space and affect the energy of everyone. 

Kids who "act out" due to hunger not only fall behind in school for themselves, but behavioral issues in the classroom can delay the progress of other students. Hungry kids may be irritable or aggressive and make the classroom uncomfortable or unsafe for the other children.

Living in a neighborhood with a family who is food insecure is a little more difficult to imagine because often times we don't even know our neighbors are struggling. I don't know about you, but I haven't really gotten to know my neighbors since moving out of my parents house. Becoming consumed with my own stress of adulthood, I tend to think I don't have time to get to know the people I kind of live with (because when living in an apartment, we do share a building with others). It's very possible that your neighbors are struggling with finding something to eat, but we'd never know because so many of us are not even concerned with knowing what our neighbors look like, let alone the struggles they may be facing.

All of this is food for thought!

After reading all that I've presented about the consequences of hunger, take some time for yourself to think about the following question.

What kinds of things have you felt because of hunger?

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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

What is a "Food Desert?"

An urban area in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food

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The USDA defines "food deserts" as:

parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers.

I'm choosing to expand on the topic of a food desert because of a recent story about Stone Mountain, Georgia, which is only 20 miles outside the city of Atlanta. (You can read the story for yourself HERE.)

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After 18 years of business, a Kroger in one of the busiest areas of DeKalb County is shutting down because of "declining sales and negative profit." The nearest grocery stores are 3 to 5 miles away, which turns this area into a food desert. When food is NOT accessible within one mile of a community, the community is deemed a food desert. Communities with grocery stores and other whole foods providers are known as "food oases."

Now that we have a clearer understanding of what a food desert is, let's talk about some issues associated with being in a food desert. 

There may be many stores that offer food for sale, such as gas stations, fast food restaurants, and quick shops, but these places usually only offer quick snacks and have a very limited selection of fresh or whole foods. (I think the best quality food I've ever seen in a gas station has been small loaves of bread and different sizes of milk.) The problem with relying on these kinds of stores is the fact that nutritionally valuable foods are non-existent. When do you go to these stores, anyway? You're most likely traveling and have stopped for a quick snack to hold you over until you can get to your destination for a real meal. No one is supposed to rely on these places to eat!

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Because options are limited to packaged and processed foods, nutritional values are low, and, as a result, the community is exposed to sugary and high fat content on a regular basis. Consistently eating these foods can lead to obesity and high blood pressure as well as other chronic illnesses, cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, etc. As a result of these diseases, people in these communities are also susceptible to higher health care costs, which then can send them deeper down the poverty hole. There are so many short-term and long-standing issues associated with food deserts, and I haven't even linked the existence of food deserts to its partner food insecurity!

Comparison

Let's take a look at a few differences between a "Food Desert" and a "Food Oasis"

Food Oasis

Many options from whole foods providers-

More competition between stores means lower prices for food-

More food quality leads to less health issues-

Usually in average to higher income areas-

Better reception to education due to access to healthy foods and high food security-

Food Desert

-Limited or NO access to fresh whole foods

-Higher cost of food from lack of grocery store competition

- Low food quality leads to higher risk of disease and chronic illness

-Prone to crime (hunger leads to behavioral issues)

-Negative impact on education (hungry kids have a harder time focusing)

These are just a few differences. Much more impactful information about food deserts could be presented.

SOLUTIONS

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1. Fight to keep food programs such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) available for anyone who needs the help

2. Support your local food pantry (or a charity that helps to feed the community).

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3. Learn more about the effects of hunger and how it could impact you and the people around you.

4. Participate in or start a garden (community garden).

5. Support mobile food pantries (buy or donate to them).

6. Support small chain grocery stores. (Sometimes small, affordable grocery stores can't exist because huge grocery giants like Wal-Mart, Kroger, or Publix offer lower prices that some smaller stores can't compete with.)

7. Volunteer with your local food pantry or charity. (Actually seeing how people are affected and learning the causes of these issues will give you better insight into how to help combat the problem.)

There are many other ways to help combat food deserts. Don't rely on this list, and don't think these are your only options! YOU have the power to combat food deserts, even if you're fighting by yourself. Don't worry about what everyone else is doing. If this is an issue that you feel is close to your heart, think of what you can do to help, then make it happen!

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Thursday November, 30, 2017

What is "Food Security?"

The state of having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food

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I made a lot of short references to the various levels of food security on my Instagram page @lexcatl. What I wasn't able to include on those posts was the formal definitions of terms we hear often: food security and hunger.

Food Security: The condition assessed in the food security survey is a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food

Hunger: An individual-level physiological condition that may result from food insecurity

The USDA defines food security for a family as:

Access by all members at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. Food security includes at a minimum (1) the ready availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, and (2) an assured ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways (that is, without resorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging, stealing, or other coping strategies).

Below, you'll see the categories used by the USDA to conduct a national annual survey of 50,000 households

  High -  Household has no problems or anxiety about consistently accessing adequate food

High -  Household has no problems or anxiety about consistently accessing adequate food

  Marginal - Household had problems at times or anxiety about accessing adequate food, but the quality, variety, and quantity of their food intake were not substantially disrupted

Marginal - Household had problems at times or anxiety about accessing adequate food, but the quality, variety, and quantity of their food intake were not substantially disrupted

  Low - Households reduced the quality, variety, and desirability of their diets, but the quantity of food intake and normal eating patterns were not substantially disrupted

Low - Households reduced the quality, variety, and desirability of their diets, but the quantity of food intake and normal eating patterns were not substantially disrupted

  Very Low - At times during the year, eating patterns of one or more household members were disrupted and food intake reduced because the household lacked money and other resources for food

Very Low - At times during the year, eating patterns of one or more household members were disrupted and food intake reduced because the household lacked money and other resources for food

I'd like you to take a moment to consider these different categories. Could you, at some point in your life, have been placed in one other than "high" or "marginal?" I know for me, although I had the support of my parents, there were times in college where I felt like I didn't have enough money to buy decent food, which is an issue that stemmed partially from not making enough money between my two jobs and having too much fear or pride to simply ask for more money and help from my parents.

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Those considerations noted, I'm asking you to keep a more open mind for what it means to have "food insecurity." There are so many unique situations that may cause people to be food insecure. Don't think you're not in direct contact with someone who struggles! What I would like for you and for the rest of our society to do is be better! Simply put, let's allow ourselves to be more open and empathetic with each other.

When you observe and think about who could be placed in a position to not be able to feed themselves properly, understand that the stereotypical faces of struggle that come to mind are not the only people having a hard time feeding themselves. Of course there are people who face homelessness, which usually means they're also threatened by lack of food security, but what about other people who, like me, may have secretly struggled and showed no signs of outward hardship? Let's not even take into consideration the number of people who don't feed themselves properly from lack of food education or basic cooking skills. We're talking about people who, despite working their asses off to live a decent life, may still fall just short of having everything taken care of.

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The reason why some of us don't recognize those who are struggling is because often we make people feel as though they can't show anything other than perfection or anything other than strength. As with our emotions, situations are ever changing, so at any moment's notice any one of us could be affected by a sudden shift in our lives that changes our ability to "handle" things. We all struggle. No one of us is perfect. And, we all need to be aware that life has its ebbs and flows and that our struggles are not a sign of weakness. If we can all remember that we suffer the same pains, the simple first step of recognizing the many faces of food insecurity will be made possible. From there we can work together to end food insecurity, but the first step is always recognition!

P.S. How was your Thanksgiving?

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