Childhood hunger “unacceptable” reality: pediatrician

In a city of huge resources, childhood hunger shouldn’t be a challenge to overcome, pediatrics specialist Dr. Linda Rosenthal to Shannan Ferry and Rocco Vertuccio Saturday.

As many as one in four children in New York City suffers from hunger and food insecurity, according to No Kid Hungry, a national campaign by nonprofit Share Our Strength that fights hunger and poverty.

“It’s really unacceptable that our community is still facing this challenge because there are resources that we can connect patients with,” Rosenthal said in an interview with NY1.

Part of the problem is a lack of knowledge of available programs and help, but parental hesitation also plays a role, Rosenthal said. Immigrants who are concerned about their status are often nervous about taking aid programs or don’t think they qualify.

That’s why Rosenthal, who works at the Children’s Hospital in Montefiore, encourages her fellow pediatricians to talk to their patients about hunger and their access to food. The American Academy of Pediatrics is promoting a two-question screening process called the “Hunger Vital Sign,” which Rosenthal says is a good way for doctors to measure children’s exposure to hunger.

The screening process determines that patients are at risk for food insecurity if families answer “sometimes true” or “often true” to one or both statements. ‘ and ‘in the past 12 months the food we bought just didn’t last and we didn’t have the money to get more’.

Some kids who go hungry will show signs of developmental delay, have trouble fighting infection and struggle with energy and focus, Rosenthal said. But hunger may be difficult to detect in many children who show no outward signs.

“Hunger can present without any sign and that’s why I think it’s so important that pediatricians like me screen for things like hunger,” Rosenthal said. “If you’re a family struggling, know that your pediatricians are here to help.”

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