HEALTH

Overweight and Hungry – the Latino Contradiction

** ADVANCE FOR MONDAY, MAY 29 ** Damon Diamond, 2, of Bryant, Ark., is examined by Dr. Samiya Razzaq at an Arkansas Children's Hospital clinic Friday, May 26, 2006, in Little Rock, Ark. Two years after Arkansas instituted first-in-the-nation obesity testing for public school students, data shows that the percentage of overweight children remains the same, but at least it's not going up. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

** ADVANCE FOR MONDAY, MAY 29 ** Damon Diamond, 2, of Bryant, Ark., is examined by Dr. Samiya Razzaq at an Arkansas Children's Hospital clinic Friday, May 26, 2006, in Little Rock, Ark. Two years after Arkansas instituted first-in-the-nation obesity testing for public school students, data shows that the percentage of overweight children remains the same, but at least it's not going up. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)  (AP2006)

Hispanic children offer a strange paradox.

Studies say they are too fat – Latino kids are experiencing high levels of obesity. Yet they are also very hungry, says a study released Monday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For the third year in a row, they make up the largest share – or 38 percent – of children living with hunger.

“When it comes to nutrition, Latino children are in the midst of a crisis,” said Janet Murguía, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza.

NCLR, which sought to find out why Hispanic children are experiencing this contradiction, attributed it to three reasons: Hispanics lack the money to buy healthy food; they’re more likely to be uninsured so don’t have access to nutrition counseling and they tend to live in areas where healthy food is difficult to access.

“Instead, they have to travel far for good food and make sacrifices in food quality,” Murguía said during a press conference Tuesday.

Poor nutrition – hunger or uneven diets – leads to other issues, including developmental problems and chronic disease, according to Maria Gómez, who heads an organization called Mary’s Center for Maternal and Child Care.

“In our experience… they are also the children more likely to fall behind in school, which seriously impacts their capacity to succeed later in life,” Gómez said.

NCLR announced Tuesday that it was partnering with other groups to combat the Latino nutrition problem. With the groups – including the USDA and the privately run Partnership for a Healthier America – they hope to expand federal food and nutrition programs, invest in communities to ensure healthy food is available and affordable, provide access to good health care to pregnant women and give parents the tools to be active in their children’s nutrition.

“Making sure that our children eat nutritious meals and live in healthy communities will not only improve their immediate health, but ensure a better future for all Americans,” Murguía said.

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