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Improving Nutrition for the Homeless

Published By: Shafiqul Bhuiya

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The lack of proper nutrition is a problem for the general population, and it is even more exacerbated within the homeless population. In 2021, Project Downtown Orlando (PDO) posted a blog that dealt with the nutritional challenges of the homeless. This article will build upon that article and focus more on the solutions to this very imperative issue.

For a host of reasons, homeless individuals are not able to gain access to proper nutrition. Insufficient funds to purchase healthy foods, poor nutritional knowledge, as well as lack of healthy options at shelters and soup kitchens are just a few of the reasons why homeless individuals lack proper nutrition. As detailed in the previous blog post, homeless individuals commonly have deficits in imperative nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium, and thiamine. These nutritional deficits can lead to conditions such as anemia as well as other detrimental conditions.

Two major ways to increase the quality and quantity of the nutrition that homeless individuals receive can come in the form of proper access to healthy options, as well as an increase in nutritional literacy. Soup kitchens, shelters, and similar providers of foods are the most frequent sources of meals cited by the homeless. Hence, improving the nutritional quality of their meals will therefore increase access to proper nutrition for the homeless. For example, shelters can increase the amount of fruits and vegetables given, as well as provide meals that have lower amounts of fats, sugars, and salts. Additionally, food providers can supply the homeless population with foods that can alleviate some of their nutritional deficiencies. They can provide dark leafy greens and dark orange vegetables to combat vitamin A deficiency; fortified whole grains, lentils, and pecans for thiamin deficiency; beans and soy foods for iron deficiency. An increase in access to these types of foods will increase the quality of nutrition available to the homeless population.

In addition to increasing the quality of foods accessible to the homeless population, focused nutritional education programs can help increase the quality of nutrition the homeless population receives. Lessons such as smart shopping and nutritional literacy can supply the homeless population with tools to take their health into their own hands. With this training, the homeless population can choose between healthy and unhealthy options. The education will teach them to choose less fats, sugars, and salts, and more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Additionally, they can learn to swap out certain foods with healthier alternatives. For example, choosing whole grain bread instead of white bread, low sodium canned foods instead of sodium-rich canned options, as well as tuna in water instead of oil. These are all simple changes that can be made to increase the nutritional quality of foods that homeless individuals choose, which can have a positive impact on their overall health.

To be healthy, the homeless population must have the resources and the knowledge to make healthy choices. Providers of meals and the homeless individuals themselves play an important role in the nutrition of the homeless population. Better access to nutritional meals as well as an increase in nutritional literacy will aid in keeping the homeless population healthy.  

 

 

 

Rafferty, Y., & Shinn, M. (1991). The impact of homelessness on children. American Psychologist, 46(11), 1170–1179. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066x.46.11.1170

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1580272/pdf/pubhealthrep00189-0014.pdf

https://nhchc.org/webinars/promoting-healthy-habits-innovative-nutrition-education-physical-activity-programs-for-homeless-children-families/

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/healthy-diet

https://www.qni.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/nutrition_guidance.pdf

https://mauiready.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/homeless-nutrition-education-toolkit-final.pdf

http://www.faqs.org/nutrition/Hea-Irr/Homelessness.html

 

About the author
Shafiqul Bhuiya
Shafiqul Bhuiya is a Bangladeshi-American from Bronx, New York. He has graduated with a Masters in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Central Florida and aspires to become a Physician Assistant. He is currently working as a Molecular Technologist in Infectious Disease testing. Shafiqul enjoys exercising, playing video games, and volunteering with Project Downtown Orlando during his free time. He believes in the power of proper healthcare and the hope it can bring to people in need.

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