The impacts of access to healthy foods go beyond the immediate child and family. While the benefits to individual children, families or even communities cannot be overstated, healthy meals and proper childhood nutrition can have broader societal impacts. Evidence shows that food availability influences outward behavior and in turn how individuals such as children or members of the child’s family interact with others. This behavioral change that is food-dependent can have broad, societal impacts. Healthy food access also influences the economy and numerous studies have demonstrated a substantial return on investment into early childhood care. To go a step further, healthy food availability leads to economic growth, but economic growth has a negligible effect on food availability. The benefits of economic growth face challenges when trickling down because poverty and food scarcity are closely linked with systemic barriers to wealth including, but not limited to, systemic racism, resource availability, status quo, and even awareness of availability. In other words, food insecurity cannot be solved by indirect methods, but investments must be made directly to those who are food insecure.
There is an often greater emphasis on the importance of the economy, whereas the health of young children is often seen as secondary, but this study refutes that common misconception. In fact, improving early childhood nutrition has been shown to increase the overall economy, not the other way around (Vollmer et al., 2014).
Investing in the nutrution of young children has incredible benefits fiscally, on top of being the morally correct thing to do. Children who grow up without food insecurity are more productive members of society and produce almost 3x the money invested (Bershteyn et al., 2015).
Vollmer, S., Harttgen, K., Subramanyam, M. A., Finlay, J., Klasen, S., & Subramanian, S. V. (2014). Association between economic growth and early childhood undernutrition: evidence from 121 Demographic and Health Surveys from 36 low-income and middle-income countries. The Lancet. Global Health, 2(4), e225–e234.
Bershteyn, A., Lyons, H. M., Sivam, D., & Myhrvold, N. P. (2015). Association between economic growth and early childhood nutrition. The Lancet Global Health, 3(2), e79-e80.
Many important aspects of human development depend on food security and food security has an influence on practices of food acquisition and food management. These broad behavioral tendencies can in turn affect broader interactions with others leading to societal impacts (Anne-Marie et al., 1999).
Combatting food insecurity leads to decreased delinquent and sometimes dangerous behavior. Children growing up in food-secure households are less likely to engage in delinquent behavior because they do not struggle with survival (Rees et al., 2012).
Anne-Marie Hamelin, Jean-Pierre Habicht, Micheline Beaudry, Food Insecurity: Consequences for the Household and Broader Social Implications, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 129, Issue 2, February 1999, Pages 525S–528S.
Rees, N., Chai, J., & Anthony, D. (2012). Right in principle and in practice: A review of the social and economic returns to investing in children. New York: Division of Policy and Strategy, UNICEF