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How many articles do we need to read regarding the differences between high and low income families before we realize there are some real issues that need to be addressed???
Although not the first, there was a recent study conducted by the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences indicating that there is a distinct difference in
what wealthy and poor babies eat. Working with families in disenfranchised communities, I have learned that poor children do not eat healthy; however, prior to reading the article presented by the Washington Post and others I had not considered the stats that support what I already knew.
The University stated that the dietary patterns of American infants between the ages of six and 12 months old varied by the racial, ethnic, educational and socioeconomic background of their mothers. Less educated and poorer households tend to have diets with higher sugar and fat, whereas higher educated households with a higher income tend to do the opposite.
Research shows that families with incomes generally above $60,000 a year, with higher educational levels ranging from some college to post-graduate were more likely to breast feed and give their infants solid foods which adhered to the feeding guidelines as suggested by international and pediatric organizations. To the contrary, families with an income under $25,000 a year and an education level of a high school diploma or less were more likely to feed their babies food that was high in sugar, fat and protein or high in dairy foods and regular cereals. Some of the more common foods include candy, ice cream, soda and French fries. Furthermore, the researchers concluded that African American women were more likely than all other groups to feed their infants unhealthy diets.
Infants that are fed foods with bitter taste are more likely to develop a like for them; on the other hand, infants fed sweet or fatty foods are not only more likely to prefer that type of food, but may even develop an addiction. What is most disturbing about these findings are the long term effects (i.e. overweight, stunt in growth and increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease and other unhealthy conditions) that impact the infants’ health, eating habits and food preferences as they grow into adults; and the trend is then passed on to their children.
Bottom line….poverty plays a major role in the nutritional choices that many parents are able to make for their children. Between the cost of healthier foods and the lack of nutrition knowledge, low income families are not provided the same equal opportunities as families with higher income. The gap between poor and financially well-off families is a great one; parents feeding their infants unhealthy drinks/food is a growing problem in the United States.
The infancy stage is a critical period for ALL children! It is important for parents of ALL racial, ethnic, educational and socioeconomic backgrounds to have the opportunity to provide their children with healthy eating! Research tells us that the problem is the lack of nutrition education and low cost healthy foods; this being the case, the answer to this growing problem is simple….more family, friends and communities should offer nutrition education (including education about breast feeding) and access to affordable or free healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables. Is the solution as easy as the answer? No….but if folks realize the seriousness of this issue and come together it is possible. It takes a village! #ItsARealIssue!
Mrs. Tomaro M. Pilgrim, MS