I'm Not Hungry, But I am Angry

Nov 29, 2010

The blog first appeared in the Huffington Post on Nov. 24

By Danielle Ewen

One in four. It seems to be the nation's new mantra when it comes to children.

One in four young children is poor. One in four children does not have a parent with full-time, year-round employment. One in four children is hungry. Twenty-five percent of our children go without the basics every day.

It's no surprise that families are having difficulty providing for their children when one in four full-time jobs in this country pays less than the poverty level for a family of four.

Thirty-four percent of children in the United States face one or two risk factors for unhealthy development, including poverty, living in single parent families, living in households where no parent has more than a high school education, living in families where no parent speaks English well, or living in a household where no parent has paid employment. These risk factors have been linked to mental health disorders and behavioral and learning problems. Long-term consequences may include dropping out of school and involvement with child welfare and juvenile justice.

Children in food insecure families are 40 percent more likely than their counterparts to be at developmental risk. A growing body of research, in fact, documents the connection between adverse childhood experiences and poor health and development outcomes. The studies examine a variety of risks, document their association with poor outcomes, and show that exposure to multiple risks has a compounding effect of increasing the odds of poor outcomes.

The numbers could go on. But how many more numbers do we need before admitting the urgency and committing to addressing these issues with the same level of vigor we reserve for watching the meltdown of the latest starlet?

The richest nation in the world -- the nation that was first to the moon, that invented the Internet and created the polio vaccine -- cannot provide for its own children.

It doesn't take a commission (or 6) to determine why kids don't have enough food or why their parents can't find decent-paying jobs. It doesn't require the services of Nobel Laureates, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or even a hedge fund manager.

We have the resources and the opportunity to act. Congress can pass a good child nutrition bill that is fully funded and ensures that children both in child care and in school have access to high quality, nutritious meals. Congress can also ensure that SNAP (previously known as Food Stamps) isn't cut to pay for these meals. Congress must also act to extend unemployment insurance benefits and the TANF Emergency Fund. These funds were responsible for keeping millions from falling into poverty last year, including 1 million children.

It simply takes commitment. The will to say no more or to say that America is the richest country in the world and not a single child should be hungry. The will to also say it is more important to feed a child than it is to give tax breaks to the wealthiest among us. And to say: everyone should have access to the American dream to work and provide for their children. It takes the will to say our children come first.


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