Most kids, when they’re hungry think about when dinner will be ready. But not the little 6-year-old in North Carolina who was asked about it in a recently released five-year study. “I go to bed and think about eating,” she said.
The study, conducted by two sociology professors at North Carolina State University and one at the University of British Columbia, followed 100 poor and working-class families of young children. They conducted multiple interviews, followed some of them as they shopped at groceries and food pantries and during school lunches and even visited their homes as they cooked and ate. The professors, Sarah Bowen, Sinikka Elliott, and Annie Hardison-Moody, summarized their findings in a July 2 op-ed article in The New York Times, Why Do Our Kids Go Hungry?
As noted in a previous post on this website, Zero to Three, the national organization devoted to the welfare of infants, children and families, estimates that nearly 17 million families, or about 14 percent of families nationwide are food insecure for all or part of the year. “Whether temporary or chronic, food insecurity is devastating for kids,” notes the study done by Professors Bowen, Elliott, and Hadison-Moody. It cites mothers and fathers who have cut back or gone without their own meals so their children should be fed but it was still not enough. For more than 70 years, since President Truman signed the National School Lunch Act in 1946, our national policies, while often not achieved, have been that children deserve to have adequate nutrition regardless of the economic status of their parents. That is, until now.
New Farm Bill Will Mean Millions More Hungry Kids
The farm bill, recently passed in the U.S. House of Representatives and supported by President Trump mandates that adults provide proof that they are working at least 20 hours a week or enrolled for that time in work training programs before their families can be eligible for aid in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps). It does not take into account people who simply can’t find a job, or are laid off, or those whose hours are reduced to below 20 a week, or those who must care for young children and can’t find adequate child care. While this formerly applied only to adults without children, extending it now to families with children means that millions more children will experience hunger if this bill goes into effect. While the Senate version does not contain such draconian provisions, the legislation is slated to go to a House-Senate Conference Committee to reconcile the differences in the bills. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conway, who ushered the bill through the House, has predicted that the stringent work requirement will make it into the final legislation.
What does this say about us as a nation if we allow millions of children to go hungry?
The authors of the study cite some examples of children currently experiencing food insecurity even without the bill under consideration. One described how she drank bottles of water to fill up on when she was hungry. Others told of going to neighbors to ask for something to eat. One told how he collected cans and bottles from neighborhood recycling bins to cash them in for food money.
They asked a number of the children what they would tell President Trump about food if they had the chance to speak to him. “That I don’t have enough,” was the reply of an eight-year-old.