Challenges of Proper Nutrition in Homeless Population

Published By: Sarah Khan

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People afflicted with homelessness are preoccupied with trying to make living arrangements for their survival. Often times, another crucial aspect of their survival is neglected: their diet. This article will highlight the food disparities among the homeless and the challenges they face in obtaining proper nutrition. Homeless people may resort to eating whatever is presented to them, whether that be through homeless shelters or local donations, without putting much thought into what it is that they are eating. This kind of diet undoubtedly prevents them from meeting their daily nutritional needs for living a healthy lifestyle. 

Homeless people across the world are at a higher risk for experiencing malnutrition, nutritional deficiencies, and other nutrition-related health issues. Homeless people lack adequate housing and often do not have proper modes of transportation. This causes them to eat fewer and less frequent meals than housed individuals and people that have access to proper transportation. Also, the few meals that homeless people eat usually lack fruits and vegetables and instead consist of unhealthy foods that are high in fats and sugars. When these individuals are provided with financial aid for purchasing food, they are more likely to purchase unhealthy processed meals over healthy nutritional meals because it is the easier option in their given situation. They are likely inclined to choose meals that will keep them satisfied for a longer period of time, rather than focusing on the nutritional content of their meals. 

Dietary insufficiencies put the homeless at risk for developing nutritional deficiencies and other subsequent problems, including mental illnesses and drug and alcohol abuse. Inadequate diets accompanied by alcohol abuse can lead to deficiencies in vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium. thiamine and other essential nutrients. Anemia, a condition caused by low levels of iron, is common among the homeless population. 

Eating healthy is a constant struggle not just for the homeless population, but for people everywhere. One way to try and combat this issue is for local grocery stores and other generous donors to provide healthier, nutritious food items to homeless shelters and food pantries that cater to the homeless population. Here at Project Downtown Orlando, we prepare our packages with fresh meals and nutritious snacks in our personal efforts to alleviate the problem of malnutrition among the homeless population in our community.

About the author
Sarah Khan
Sarah Khan is based in Orlando, FL. She is a recent graduate of the University of Central Florida. Sarah joined the Project Downtown Orlando team in January of 2020, and then went on to join the mentorship committee after enjoying her experience as a volunteer.

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