Today is a special day, today is Go Orange for No Kid Hungry Day. This day highlights the problems and solutions for child hunger. And many people does not realize the problem of child hunger in America, and the number is huge! Nearly one in five children in America lives in households that struggle to put food on the table. They may look no different than other children; child hunger in America is often invisible. They are hurting, just the same. Sure, kids who struggle to eat at home can get a free or reduced lunch at school, but try learning or surviving the day with only one meal? It’s a lot harder than you think!
48.8 million Americans—including 16.2 million children— live in households that lack the means to get enough nutritious food on a regular basis. As a result, they struggle with hunger at some time during the year. Many of these families rely either on food charities or the SNAP or food stamp program to survive. And with the US House and Republicans wanting to cut the SNAP program by billions of dollars, these needy families are in jeopardy of going hungry. In communities like here in Anniston with still record high unemployment in 2013, food charities can not keep up with the high demand of hungry people. And if SNAP is cut, people will go hungry!
Some of you might say these hungry people needs to find a job, and then I laugh at these people. East Alabama and West Georgia has some of the highest unemployment in the southeast US. Just look at these unemployment numbers for July 2013.
People can not find jobs around here. And when a job fair for a new business is held, thousands of people apply for around 100 jobs that are available. Simply put, there are no jobs here in Anniston / Oxford or in NE Alabama / NW Georgia. I am surviving on food stamps and have been unemployed for 26 months now. I have applied to over 425 jobs and been to over 14 job fairs across Alabama and Georgia. I am not alone, there are other people who are in the same boat as me. The long-term unemployed are scraping by while others are succeeding. Often, the long-term unemployed are surviving by only eating one meal a day and are on food stamps. This is something that has got to change!
Here are some other facts about food insecurity:
- Rates of food insecurity are substantially higher than the national average among households with incomes near or below the federal poverty line, among households with children headed by single parents (35.1% of female-headed households with children are food-insecure) and among Black and Hispanic households.
- Food insecurity is most common in large cities but still exists in rural areas, suburbs and other outlying areas around large cities
- 25 % of households with children living in large cities are food-insecure.
- The typical (median) food-secure household spent 27 percent more for food than the typical food-insecure household of the same size and composition.
- 59% of food-insecure households reported that in the previous month they had participated in one or more of the three largest federal food and nutrition assistance programs: SNAP (formerly food stamps), School Lunch and WIC.
Children and adults who go hungry can not function as well as people who are doing fine. In school, 3 out of 5 teachers say they have children in their classrooms who regularly come to school hungry. Many teachers spend money out of their own pockets to buy food so kids can learn without having a growling stomach. Yes, kids can get a meal during lunch, but what happens when schools are closed during the Summer? Here is a test for you, try learning and concentrating on an empty stomach? It’s not going to happen!
And if you think hunger is something our country can ignore, think again! According to a report by the Center for American Progress and Brandeis University, “hunger costs our nation at least $167.5 billion due to the combination of lost economic productivity per year, more expensive public education because of the rising costs of poor education outcomes, avoidable health care costs, and the cost of charity to keep families fed. Also, “food insecurity led to a loss of $19.2 billion in [life-time] earnings in 2010.” Hunger also costs everyone! In 2010, “it cost every citizen $542 due to the far-reaching consequences of hunger in our nation.” If the number of hungry Americans remains constant, “each individual’s bill for hunger in our nation will amount to about $42,400” on a lifetime basis.
Luckily, there is an organization that is committed to stopping the problem of hunger. Share Our Strength is a national organization that works hard to make sure no kid in America grows up hungry. They weave together a net of community groups, activists and food programs to catch children facing hunger and surround them with nutritious food where they live, learn and play. There are solutions to the hunger problem in America!
One, schools needs to provide school breakfasts and lunches, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and kids needs breakfast! Schools also needs to provide Summer meals for needy kids as well! Two, education is needed so kids and parents can stretch food dollars and cook healthy meals at home. And of course, there needs to be more awareness to the hunger problem.
Another great organization, Feeding America, provides food to 37 million low-income people in America. One way food can be provided to low-income people is to protect the SNAP program. I have seen the comments from some people online who say the program is full of waste and people are lazy and relying on government assistance. No, most people are not lazy, we just don’t get a chance to get a foot in the door. If Congress is successful, more people in America will go hungry! And the food pantries and soup kitchens will not be able to keep up!
Another thing for people in Alabama. Alabama is one of a few states that charges a full sales tax on groceries. In some areas, up to a 10% sales tax is charged for everything including groceries. The Alabama Legislature needs to end the sales tax on food so poorer people can afford to buy groceries, but with the Republican controlled legislature running the show, I don’t expect that to happen anytime soon, sad!
Learn more about Share Our Strength at: https://www.nokidhungry.org/
Learn more about Feeding America at: http://feedingamerica.org/
- Thinking about food stamps and food insecurity and labor force participation (aei-ideas.org)
- The States Where The Most People Go Hungry: 24/7 Wall St. (huffingtonpost.com)
- Hunger in America and how you can help (pinkandblack-magazine.com)
- Food insecurity forces millions to skip meals, while Republicans push food stamp cuts (dailykos.com)
- Many Americans Still Struggling to Feed Their Families (billmoyers.com)
- Ohio to limit food stamps (newsnet5.com)
- Child Hunger So Common That Three-Quarters Of Teachers Have Hungry Students (thinkprogress.org)
- Fox Guest Argues That Letting Children Go Hungry At School Teaches Them A Lesson (VIDEO) (addictinginfo.org)