An ailing economy and staggering unemployment are causing more and more chronically malnourished American kids, the likes of which our country hasn't seen in decades. Doctors are seeing a dramatic increase in underweight kids coming into their offices, weight so low in fact that they fear learning disabilities and other side effects later in life.

According to a story in the Boston Globe, prior to the economic slump in 2007 rates of children under 3 that were underweight were at 12 percent and in 2010 they increased to 18 percent. Similarly, an emergency room survey asked families whether they had enough food to feed their families. In 2007, the rate of families that said no was at 18 percent and in 2010 it was at 28 percent.

USA Today reported that 17 million American kids are going hungry in the U.S.

"We profiled a couple of families that are suffering. These are your typical working class families where one parent lost a job at no fault of their own," explains Al Roker. "They are struggling with how to pay rent and utility bills while still putting food on the table. Older siblings are having to forgo meals so younger ones can eat. It's really eye-opening."

The USDA's food insecurity report found that in 2009 14.7 percent of American households were considered food insecure at least some of the time. This translates into larger problems down the line. According to Science Daily, malnourishment early in life leads to lower IQs and antisocial aggressive behavior.

"Poor nutrition, characterized by zinc, iron, vitamin B and protein deficiencies, leads to low IQ, which leads to later antisocial behavior," said Adrian Raine, a co-author of the study and holder of the Robert Grandford Wright Professorship in Psychology in USC's College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. "These are all nutrients linked to brain development."

It's a growing problem and in a country as wealthy as the U.S., it shouldn't be. Check out the Child Hunger Ends Here blog and find out how you can help.

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