CINCINNATI – The nightmare of not having enough food to feed one's baby is a reality for 15 percent of the parents who walk into the pediatric clinic at Cincinnati Children's Hospital. Moms tell doctors that they dilute formula, cut feedings off before their babies are full or take more time between feedings to stretch what they have.
Cincinnati's Freestore Foodbank estimates that 20,000 babies live in homes without enough food in the 20 counties that the food bank serves.
The immediate impact of babies going hungry may be obvious and heart wrenching, but a lack of good nutrition in the first year of life also sets a child on a path to lifelong trouble.
Babies who don't get all the nutrition they need won't mentally develop as well as well-fed children, making it more likely that they won't be ready to learn and socialize in kindergarten, which makes it more likely they won't read by third grade, which makes it more likely they'll drop out of high school, which makes it harder to find a good job.
They're also at higher risk for psychological and behavioral problems down the road, according to studies cited by Cincinnati Children's Hospital.
The beginning of a solution is under way. Children's and the Freestore Foodbank partnered with Procter & Gamble and Kroger to work on the daunting problem with the KIND program, short for Keeping Infants Nourished and Developing.
The program launched at Children's pediatric care center at its main campus in 2011 but has since expanded to five other clinics, all of which primarily serve low-income patients who receive Medicaid.
Doctors ask questions meant to identify families who run out of food by the end of the month and have trouble feeding their babies. Once identified, parents are given a can of formula and diapers. Also key to the program, doctors and staff direct patients to other support services since the formula and diapers last for a week or less.
"There are a lot of consequences to food insecurity," said Dr. Melissa Klein, a founder of the KIND program.
WCPO Insiders can read more about Freestore's efforts and why healthy babies affect long-term learning.