Today was a day of eating and running, or running and not eating. I had to go into Boston, and I try to take the train in when I can. There’s a 9:00 train I can catch if I head to the station by 8:30. But what this usually means is that, once I get Phoebe bundled off to daycare, I can barely get myself together in time to, for example, eat breakfast. So since I didn’t have a scheduled meeting till later in the afternoon, I decided to catch a later train. To give myself time to for breakfast, for one thing. Most important meal of the day, and all that. I tend to be hungry in the morning, and if I don’t eat, I get cranky and less than fully functional. So I had my breakfast before leaving home.
It was a bit of a crazy day for public transportation in Boston today. Unbeknownst to me, there was a freakin’ parade scheduled, so I shared my commute in with a trainload of exhuberant teens in party mode.
I figured that by 5:30 or so, when I was heading back towards home, the post-parade chaos would have cleared up. Not quite. As I headed to the train station, I realized I was getting hungry. I thought I’d stop in at the convenience store to get a snack, since I wouldn’t be home till after 7:00. But the train station was mobbed. They had passengers waiting for trains corraled off into lines. I didn’t want to risk being bumped to a later train, so I joined the pen for my train, and missed my window of time to grab something to eat.
It was a long ride home. The train wasn’t as crowded as I’d feared, and I got to sit down. I did a bit of work, but found it hard to concentrate. For one thing, my rumbling stomach kept interrupting my thoughts. It’s hard to focus when you’re hungry.
Of course, my hunger was only temporary. I got to go home, and get something to eat.
Not only did I get to eat, I got to eat foods that I chose. I make efforts to eat well, to eat high quality whole-grain foods, and lots of fruits and vegetables. I find that when I eat well, eat healthily, I feel better. I have more energy, stay healthier, sleep better, work better.
What I find unsettling is that there are so many for whom real hunger is a daily obstacle, and poor nutrition is a regular detractor from health and productivity. Even in the US, where food is plentiful for so many. How can it be that in the same country, where millions are “watching what they eat” in order to lose weight, that others still struggle to even get adequate quantities of food? Restaurants serve up obscenely large servings of food, and we eat more than we should or want, and often waste the rest. Some of us have too much food, while others of us can’t get what we need. Eating healthy foods, especially fresh produce, costs money. And takes time.
Jen at One Plus Two wrote a compelling post reminding us that among those who aren’t getting adequate healthy food are lots of children. 13 million children…in the US alone.
Poor nutrition leads to poor health, poor performance in school, and even impaired cognitive development.
Recent research provides compelling evidence that undernutrition — even in its “milder” forms — during any period of childhood can have detrimental effects on the cognitive development of children and their later productivity as adults. In ways not previously known, undernutrition impacts the behavior of children, their school performance, and their overall cognitive development. These findings are extremely sobering in light of the existence of hunger among millions of American children.
Poor nutrition is one of the many ways that those who live in poverty are denied the opportunities to get out of poverty.
On the bright side, there are things we can do.
We can let our politicians know we find the current state of affairs unacceptable. We can give to food banks. There are organizations who are active in fighting hunger, and advocating changes that will prevent hunger. You can learn more about hunger, and hunger in the US and around the world, from a variety of groups, such as Second Harvest. In Massachusetts, there is Project Bread, a group that organizes an annual Walk for Hunger. (Don’t worry, though. The walk is not actually in support of hunger, but in support of efforts to eradicate hunger.)