COVID and Food Insecurity: COVID unveils underlying food insecurity problem our children are facing

By Manasa Mantravadi



Time to Read: 6 min

Food insecurity — the limited or uncertain access to enough food — is a critical child health issue that impacts children and families in all communities. Unfortunately, 1 in 6 U.S. children lives in a food-insecure household. Children who live in households that are food insecure, even at the least severe levels of food insecurity, are likely to be sick more often, recover from illness more slowly and be hospitalized more frequently.

About Ahimsa

Founded by a pediatrician and mom of three

Stainless steel is the only kid-friendly material recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics 

We are guided by a Scientific Advisory Council comprised of environmental and medical experts, guiding us in creating the safest products, following the latest science and promoting policy to protect human health and our planet

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COVID and Food Insecurity

This issue is so important that in a policy statement, Promoting Food Security for All Children, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that pediatricians screen for food insecurity and intervene accordingly for all kids.

At baseline, prior to COVID, certain children and households are more likely to be food insecure.

  • Food insecurity rates for black and Hispanic households are substantially above the national average.
  • Households outside metropolitan areas (more rural areas) are seeing considerably deeper struggles with food insecurity compared to those within metropolitan areas.
  • Unemployment and underemployment are strongly associated with food insecurity.
  • Children in immigrant families, large families, families headed by single women, families with less education and families experiencing parental separation or divorce are at greater risk for food insecurity.

Every one of those at-risk children are now facing a world with increasing stress due to COVID-19 which is unveiling societal inequalities that already exist and accelerating those inequalities. So - if food insecurity — even marginal food insecurity — is detrimental to children’s health, developmental and mental health at baseline - these children are now left with a series of problems that exacerbates that risk. 

Children are not in school to receive their subsidized meals. Parents are unemployed, limiting their ability to put food on the table. Many families already have limited access to a primary health care provider and now are too scared to come to the emergency room when ill for fear of contracting COVID. Many families share their homes with multiple generations, in small apartments and without access to open areas to play - causing increased stress on mental health. 

A new report by Feeding America finds that the number of food-insecure children could escalate to 18 million because of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the report, an increase in the unemployment rate of 7.6% coupled with a 5% increase in the child poverty rate would result in a 9.3% increase in the child food-insecurity rate—bringing the total child food-insecurity rate potentially to 24.5%. In the wake of the pandemic, that would mean 1 in 4 children could face hunger in America this year. At the same time, stay at home orders and school closures are leaving many food banks facing increased demand, a decline in food donations and fewer volunteers.

You cannot necessarily tell by outward appearance who is food insecure. 

So, as a fellow mom, dad, grandparent, aunt, uncle, teacher or just as a fellow human being, what can you do to help?

  • You can donate to organizations like the Patachou Foundation, Feeding America and No Kid Hungry.
  • If you know someone who is struggling, you can order groceries on Instacart or other grocery delivery services and have it delivered to them. 
  • You can also call your local food pantry and see what their current needs are

As we’ve mentioned in the past, we have donated portions of proceeds (can still donate in link below) to the Indianapolis-based Patachou Foundation. Last November, Team Ahimsa met Rachael Ray at the Indiana Conference for Women. It was love at first sight, but we fell even more in love with her when we learned more about her Yum-o! Organization. The tagline is Cook. Feed. Fund. Just last month Yum-o! and the Rachael Ray Foundation donated $4 MILLION for COVID-19 relief. How amazing?! We admire Rachael's use of her powerful platform to help kids in our communities. She, along with the hard working members of all these organizations, serve as an inspiration to our team here at Ahimsa. Visit Yum-o below to find out more about these organizations who are fighting childhood food insecurity below. 

By offering stainless steel dinnerware, Ahimsa's mission is to get plastic OFF the table. But even more important, we want to put healthy food ON the table for every child - no matter their zip code. Join us in our efforts to advocate for children’s health today and every day. We aim to DO better and BE better for our kids - because, really - why wouldn’t we? 







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Dr. Manasa Mantravadi

Dr. Manasa Mantravadi

Dr. Manasa Mantravadi is a board-certified pediatrician whose dedication to children’s health drove her to launch Ahimsa, the world's first colorful stainless steel dishes for kids. She was motivated by the American Academy of Pediatrics’ findings on harmful chemicals in plastic affecting children's well-being. Ahimsa has gained widespread recognition and been featured in media outlets such as Parents Magazine, the Today Show, The Oprah Magazine, and more.

Dr. Mantravadi received the esteemed “Physician Mentor of the Year” award at Indiana University School of Medicine in 2019. She was also named a Forbes Next 1000 Entrepreneur in 2021, with her inspiring story showcased on Good Morning America. She serves on the Council for Environmental Health and Climate Change and the Council for School Health at The American Academy of Pediatrics. She represents Ahimsa as a U.S. industry stakeholder on the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) for the Global Plastics Treaty, led by the United Nations Environment Program. Dr. Mantravadi leads Ahimsa's social impact program, The Conscious Cafeteria Project, to reduce carbon emissions and safeguard student health as part of a national pilot of the Clinton Global Initiative.

She is dedicated to educating and empowering people to make healthier, more environmentally friendly choices at mealtime. Her mission remains to advocate for the health of all children and the one planet we will leave behind for them through real policy change within our food system.

Mealtime Essentials from Ahimsa

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I use stainless steel instead of plastic? Is stainless steel better for health?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a report in July 2018 suggesting ways that families can limit exposure to certain chemicals at mealtime, including “the use of alternatives to plastic, such as glass or stainless steel, when possible.” The report explained that “…some additives are put directly in foods, while “indirect” additives may include chemicals from plastic, glues, dyes, paper, cardboard”. Further, “Children are more sensitive to chemical exposures because they eat and drink more, relative to body weight, than adults do, and are still growing and developing.” While stainless steel items meet the recommendation to avoid plastic products in children, Ahimsa® products have the obvious advantage of not breaking like glass.

Is stainless steel better for the environment than plastic?

According to the Steel Recycling Institute, steel can be recycled over and over and over again without losing its integrity and requires less energy to recycle than to make anew. Most plastic unfortunately ends up in landfills and it is estimated to take 700 years to decompose. Our special coloring process that allows Ahimsa® products to be fully metal is environmentally friendly, so it does not produce toxic run-off into the ecosystem.

Will Ahimsa products break or peel?

No. Our steel is durable, so it won’t break or shatter with everyday use, like glass. And it won’t peel, like other colored stainless steel products you’ve seen. We use a special process that allows the colors to naturally occur in the metal.

Which Ahimsa products are best for my little one(s)?

Our products are meant to last, you can use Ahimsa at ages 1, 8 and 18! We thoughtfully design our products to be safe for little ones and our planet while reducing consumption. Once your child outgrows the Starting Solids Set  and can use regular cups and utensils, the training cup is the perfect size rinse cup in the bathroom, the infant spoon doubles as a tea stirrer and the bowl is great for snacks or as an additional compartment to our modular divided plate. Our plates are great for any age as they encourage choosing a variety of healthy foods at each meal and help visualize portion sizes easily. It’s the lasting beauty of stainless steel - grows with your child and reduces waste.

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