September 20, 2013

Hunger Doesn’t Always Look Like The Kids On TV

by

Hunger in America

Because adults are the ones who have to apply, it seems that many in Congress forget that millions of children rely on the aid their parents or guardians get through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Formerly known as food stamps, SNAP is a program that provides individuals and families who meet certain income and asset requirements to receive government funds to purchase food.

For most of my childhood, my mother received food stamps. I had no say in it. And I’m sure she would have much rather had a better paying job than jump through the hoops to get assistance. But the reality was that she didn’t make enough money to pay for rent, gas, utilities, and food. Even with food stamps there were times there was more month than money. Especially during the summer and school vacations.

When we talk about hunger, most people think of kids in third-world countries. The images of the bloated-tummy children who are filthy usually are the first that come to mind. We don’t usually think of the kids at the elementary schools near our homes. We don’t think of kids in the United States. In one of the most prosperous countries in the world, we pretend no child is hungry.

The reality is that in almost 50% of the households that receive SNAP benefits there is a child under the age of 18. These are the same kids who most likely get at least one meal subsidized at school. Many of these kids get both breakfast and lunch free at school. Yet, we’re cutting this program while turning a blind eye to programs that line the pockets of politicians.

I grew up with food stamps and getting free breakfast and lunch at school. I had no choice. It was that or go hungry. Still there were days the meals were very sparse. But I had a meal. I never worried I wouldn’t be able to eat something.

Hunger impacts children greatly. Not only does it mess with proper growth and development, hungry kids don’t do as well in school. I don’t need scientific studies for this. You tell me, how well do you do your job when you’re hungry. And you likely have access to a bounty of food but for whatever reason you skipped eating. Just forgot to eat.

Kids who go hungry don’t do it by choice. They do it because there is no food, or they give it to a sibling. They’re not on a diet or looking in the mirror wondering if they’re fat. It’s a horrible reality that the cupboards are bare, not some fairy tale with rhyming words.

Kids who are hungry don’t do as well in school. They can’t concentrate or focus. They’re looked at as dumb. They’re medicated because they’re thought to have attention issues. When, in reality, they don’t need pharmaceuticals or remedial education. What they need is a balanced meal.

I can rant all I want here. But that does nothing. What does help is calling our Congressional representatives and telling them that our children deserve to eat. Hunger isn’t filthy kids in poor countries. Hungry kids in the US look like your kids. They don’t choose to be hungry.

We all need to speak up and say ENOUGH! We can’t boast about being a world power when we’re choosing perks to already wealthy people over feeding children.

Sara

{ 4 comments }

Kate @ Songs Kate Sang September 21, 2013 at 10:00 pm

Thank you for sharing this, Sara. My reality is a little boy who lived on a diet of Cheetos and fanta.

Sara September 22, 2013 at 8:59 pm

Kate, oh to be a youngin’ again.

Rhonda September 27, 2013 at 7:49 am

No one wants to live with the hoops of this program. Or the looks of using this program at the store. Being judged by everything that is put into your shopping cart. Everyone deserves a “treat” occasionally.

We live with this program. The tiny bit of “assistance” we are given doesn’t truly take into account the medical expenses we have due to an uncaring worker, one who seems to believe that the money is coming out of her pocket. I squeeze every cent out of our $29 a month.

It hurts to be treated like a second class citizen because of unfeeling officials who seem to believe we are “lazy” and don’t want to work. I’d love to work, to be sure my family didn’t need to deal with the games of this program and could live without fear of running out. My heath makes that impossible at this point in my life. I wish, so badly, that those that make the decisions had to live this way for 6 mos or a year, not the 1 week attempt that few make. Maybe then, they could understand what horrifying decisions they are making for children, disable and veterans. sigh

Sara September 27, 2013 at 11:14 am

Rhonda, you make a great point that many of our lawmakers don’t truly understand the program they create. How the nutrition programs are implemented are often very different than what was intended. Many who work at the state/local levels do, as you say, take it personally and make judgement calls that were never intended by the law.

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