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The Rabbit Hole of Malnutrition

The "Rabbit Hole," a metaphor emblematic of a psychedelic descent, may be utilized to depict the harrowing reality of food insecurity. It begins with the narrative of a child; there are parents unable to consistently provide a meal for the family table every evening. Confined to scarce provisions, they are only able to curate two meals a day, and often, only one. Say for instance, the cause is homelessness, compounded by the affliction of a declining job market. Gradually, the grip of malnutrition dips into trauma, causing a cascade of physiological issues. In turn, these maladies exact a toll on educational and occupational performance, impeding the execution of simple daily tasks. According to a 2023 survey, a staggering 30% of the global population was proven “food insecure”, not having access to a nutritious diet. Mirroring the child from our previous narrative are many individuals within our society in the present. 

When considering the consequences of food insecurity regarding a person’s environment, the more common conclusions relate to the negative impacts on physical health. However, food insecurity provides a more holistic effect. As well as eating disorders, it is also associated with essential risks regarding anxiety and depression. Food insecurity constitutes a form of trauma, overwhelming one's coping mechanisms and ability to perform in stressful situations. 

Hunger activates the threat response system, and puts people in a fight, flight, or freeze, state of mind. This psychological siege is the cause of extreme stress, which leads directly to disorders such as anxiety and depression. The chronic maintenance of this condition, often caused by a lack of calories or certain vitamins will also exacerbate pre existing psychological issues, making treatment more challenging.

As with various other stressors, the journey for solace may catalyze a descent into substance abuse, seriously affecting both the youth and adult demographics. Access to harmful substances exacerbates persisting physiological issues and inhibits the trajectory of proper human development. Especially in children, substance abuse may lead to chronic health effects such as lung cancer, which affects the psyche in a multifaceted way. 

Taking a look back at the previous narrative, we must further consider how the parents of the suffering child grapple with feelings of guilt and inadequacy. Children of all ages require a safe environment to grow and develop in, but the constant struggle for meals affects body function and homeostasis due to factors such as malnutrition, and fear. 

The pervasive clasp of food insecurity insinuates itself into every facet of life, engendering one’s ability to hold an optimistic outlook on life, and maintain a healthy headscape. 

Yet, amid the darkness of the rabbit hole, emerge programs such as the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to help combat the issue. Programs implemented as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic must also continue in order to continue to support the affected populations. Moreover, endeavors to confront the impacts of unemployment represent further measures in the battle of food and resource equity. Ultimately, the winding tunnel of food insecurity looms as a formidable opponent to the implementation of safe, healthy lifestyles, compelling action to extricate vulnerable populations from the dark depths of the "Rabbit Hole."


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