We’re partnering with UTMB this week and celebrating malnutrition week. What exactly is malnutrition? According to the World Health Organization “Malnutrition refers to deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy and/or nutrients.” It can be undernutrition or overnutrition. When someone thinks of malnutrition, they usually think of emaciated children, but what we’re also seeing now is overnutrition. Can someone be obese and still be malnourished? Absolutely! Overnutrition can be where a person eats too many calories, and gains weight, but maybe isn’t eating the right foods, so they become deficient in many vitamins and minerals. It’s difficult to say which is “worse”, but both kinds are definitely present in our community, and need to be addressed accordingly.
What contributes to malnutrition? There are many factors, but some of the more common ones are lack of food either due to financial reasons or inadequate access to food due to transportation or safety reasons, living in a rural area, etc. Food insecurity is another influence on malnutrition. Food insecurity is a broader term and refers to lack of food access based on financial and other resources. According to Feeding Texas, in Galveston County (zip code 77550) 18.1% of people live in food insecure homes. It’s difficult to define how many are in the malnourished population, but if someone doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from, that definitely puts them at risk for being malnourished. A malnourished person does not always have to be hungry either. They may just not be eating, or have access to, enough fruits, vegetables, and other healthy items, or their body may not be able to absorb the necessary nutrients it needs. Malnutrition can also be caused by a medical condition.
What can we do to help? Us at the Galveston County Food Bank can help by providing food and resources to those in need. You in the community can help by donating food directly to those in need or to your local food bank, if you aren’t able to do that, just pass along information on where help can be obtained from. Nobody should have to go hungry!
—– Kelley Kocurek, RD Intern