Hunger’s Impact

Child Development
More than a third of all those served by Northwest Harvest are children. They are also the most vulnerable. Research by Children’s HealthWatch finds that:

  • Food-insecure children are 90% more likely to have their overall health reported as “fair/poor” rather than “excellent/good” than kids from food-secure homes.
  • Food insecurity is linked to increased hospitalizations, developmental problems, headaches, stomachaches and even colds.
  • When children eat breakfast, they tend to consume more nutrients and experience lower obesity rates.

Hungry kids can’t learn.

Inability to concentrate, poor academic performance, headaches and stomach aches and more behavior problems—these are some of what teachers see when children come to school hungry.

Even with school meals and food banks, 1 in 4 children in our state struggles with hunger, which is one reason Northwest Harvest started its Three Squares backpack program to send home nutritious food for the weekend.

“Students involved with Three Squares come back to school on Mondays ready to go and ready to learn.” – School counselor, Yakima

Research increasingly shows strong ties to nutrition and overall health.

  • Hunger in childhood has been linked to significant health problems in adulthood.
  • Families who lose snap benefits are more likely to have a child in poor health and at risk for developmental delays.
  • Research from the University of Washington has mapped the correlation of poverty in the Puget Sound area to obesity, which increases the risks of diabetes, heart problems and other illnesses.

Economic Impact
Hunger is not just “their” problem. Hunger is a national health issue that has an enormous impact on our economy. What are the true costs of children failing at school? What are the costs of treating illnesses linked to hunger and food insecurity?

The Center for American Progress and Brandeis University reports that, “hunger costs our nation at least $167.5 billion due to the combination of lost economic productivity per year, more expensive public education because of the rising costs of poor education outcomes, avoidable health care costs, and the cost of charity to keep families fed…"

It cost every citizen $542 due to the far-reaching consequences of hunger in our nation. Even if the problem simply remains constant, “each individual’s bill for hunger will amount to about $42,400” over his or her lifetime.

Washington is ranked 4th for the total cost of hunger from 2007-2010, with the total cost of hunger rising 43.6% to more than $3.8 billion dollars. Since the report was published in 2011, hunger in Washington has not remained constant. It’s grown worse, and is continuing to rise.

Still Hungry for Information?
Our Hunger Resources page has a glossary, more facts and downloadable infographics, and links to resources and organizations.