Of the 306 families surveyed, mothers in food insecure households were twice as likely to give their children supplements like PediaSure or Carnation Instant Breakfast to curb hunger. 13 percent used added sugar or other stimulants combat their childrens’ hunger.
For desperate parents, relying on supplements “may serve as a buffer to get their children through periodic food shortages,” said lead researcher Dr. Emily Feinberg.
Though the study identifies no clear link between relying on supplements to alleviate hunger and childhood obesity, Dr. Emily Feinberg of the Boston University School of Public Health noted that food insecurity and sporadic eating practices can lead to unhealthy weight for children. She encourages doctors to speak with patients about their access to food and to connect those patients who are living in food security with the appropriate benefits including Food Stamps and Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program.
As the number of food insecure families continues to rise and parents use potentially unhealthy methods to compensate for the lack of adequate food, it becomes even more important for government to increase funding for nutrition programs and universal in-classroom school breakfasts to ensure that children are receiving the complete and balanced diet they need to grow into healthy and productive adults.