More children at risk of malnourishment amid coronavirus pandemic, group says

The coronavirus pandemic has had the unexpected consequence of threatening the immune systems of more children, according to a relief organization which aims to combat malnutrition with lifesaving vitamins for children and mothers in need.

Nutritional inequity was a serious issue prior to COVID-19, but the pandemic has increased the amount of people who struggle to meet their dietary needs in the United States.

“In our own country, there are food deserts in every major city across the United States,” said Howard Schiffer, founder and president of Vitamin Angels.

“Right now a lot of people are out of work or else they’ve had their income reduced,” Schiffer said. “When people are in financial strain they have to make really tough decisions: ‘Should I pay the rent or should I get some good nutritious food for my family?’”

He said people often choose to purchase food that’s a little more filling, but less nutritious.

“What it results in is usually starch-heavy diets and foods which are processed or junk food and food that don’t provide the right nutrients,” Schiffer said.

But he said by eating foods that don’t offer the nutrients the body needs, the body becomes vulnerable, and the immune system isn’t as strong as it should be.

“That’s what happening right now in our own country,” Schiffer said. “That’s why nutrition is so critical during COVID, because it helps build your immune system.”

And that’s the reason he hopes many people will open their wallets this Giving Tuesday and support Vitamin Angels, on Tuesday, Dec. 1.

“We get essential vitamins and minerals, basic nutrients, to pregnant women and children from conception to 5 years old who are at-risk of malnutrition in the U.S. and around the world,” Schiffer said.

And he said for those who want to make sure their money goes to the charity, and not administrative costs, that’s something they excel at.

“Over 90%, I think this year it was 93%%, of the moneys we receive go directly to the women and the children that we’re serving,” said Schiffer.

The California-based charity has received a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and Platinum rating from GuideStar, verifying the majority of the money donated to it goes to serving needs, not administrative costs.

Schiffer said with their charity, even small donations can go a long way.

“For 25 cents you can donate to us and we can reach a child with vitamin A for one year. That can lower their mortality rates, children dying by up to 24%,” and he said a $5 dollar donation sees that the charity can make sure a woman gets prenatal vitamins for her entire pregnancy.

Michelle Murillo

Michelle Murillo has been a part of the WTOP family since 2014. She started her career in Central Florida before working in radio in New York City and Philadelphia.

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