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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Micronutrient Deficiency: The Undernourished Hidden Among Us

Poor, obese and malnourished.  What seems like an oxymoron is an unfortunate truth in the United States. Poor people are eating foods that are laden with "crap" calories and lack nutrition. Called “hidden hunger” according to Barbara Bush, daughter of George W. "it robs billions of people the opportunity to reach their full potential."

Hidden hunger means a lack of vitamins and minerals, or micronutrient deficiency. Despite admonitions to cover half your plate with fruits and vegetables, people do not. Or the quality of food they eat has been depleted of nutrients. According to Christina Sarich  "One apple today may carry half the amount of nutrients as an apple produced 50 years ago."

A look at SNAP, the USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Plan suggests that part of the problem is that food subsidies can be used to buy soft drinks, candy, cookies, snack crackers, and ice cream. Only an act of Congress can change the designation of eligible foods and Congress "concluded that designating foods as luxury or non-nutritious would be administratively costly and burdensome." The USDA says there are no clear standards that define a food as healthy or not. It is too complicated to rule a food in or out.

Evidently, there is "no strong research-based evidence to support restricting food stamp benefits." Rich people also make poor food choices so food stamp recipients should not "be singled-out." The USDA suggests incentives to purchase certain foods and better education. According to Michael Simon, unhealthy eating has helped fuel an American health crisis. Maybe the USDA should buy his book, Appetite for Profit.

Meanwhile, 85% of Americans do not consume the  recommended daily intake of the vitamins and minerals necessary for physical and mental development. Currently, households cannot use SNAP benefits to buy multi-vitamins.

If it's so hard to figure out the eligibility of the more than 300,000 food products on the market that Congress cannot act, you would think that making multi-vitamins "eligible" to be purchased under SNAP would be a simple solution for them.

The one change behavior to make today for better nutrition for everyone is to  write your Congressman and ask why multi-vitamins are not "eligible" to be purchased under SNAP.

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