Last month on TLT’s Facebook page I shared a link to an eye-opening special report in Parents magazine about hunger in America. I’d intended to write a full post about the article here, but other news items and ideas kept pushing it off the blog calendar and I started to feel that maybe it wasn’t timely anymore.
But yesterday I happened to see a tweet by Jeanne Ponessa Fratello, blogger at Jolly Tomato, linking to this story. It’s about poverty-stricken kids in Philadelphia and the emotional scars inflicted when their parents forgo their own meals to be able to feed them:
I get yummy French toast, but when Mommy doesn’t eat, I say, ‘Please eat right now, Mommy,’ ” said Kodi-Cheree Moses, 5, of North Philadelphia. Her mother, Shontaya, 31, a security guard, has three other children, and food is scarce.
The same worries course through the streets of Frankford, where 7-year-old Marcus Gaines Jr. has his parents’ missed meals on his mind.
“When I eat and I see my mom and dad don’t, I say, ‘Why don’t you eat?’ ” he said. “It makes me feel nervous and kind of sad and stuff.
“I worry about them. I try to give them my chicken nuggets.”
Marcus Sr. gently turns down his son’s offers and tells him not to fret. “As long as you guys eat, we’re OK,” he said he tells the boy. “Me and Mommy will find something.”
Moved by the Philly story, I went back and found the Parents magazine link. In the article you’ll read about people who may be a lot like you — college-educated, living in the suburbs — who suddenly lost their financial footing in today’s bad economy and now struggle to feed their families every day. You’ll also read about parents like those in the story cited above who forgo meals, leading to depression and irritability that in turn undermines the ability to parent well.
One sobering quote I just couldn’t get out of my head was from Dr. Mariana Chilton, Ph.D., an associate professor of public health at Drexel University and director of Witnesses to Hunger, who said:
This recession will be permanently inscribed in the bodies and the brains of children growing up today.
President Obama made a campaign pledge to end childhood hunger in America by 2015. One significant victory in that battle was last year’s passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act which, among other things, uses Medicaid data to directly certify children for free and reduced price meals; helps states improve the certification process for school meal aid; allows universal free meals for students in high poverty communities; and expands USDA authority to support meals served to at-risk children in after school programs.
But with one in four Americans living in food insecure households, clearly there is so much more to be done. The Parents article offers excellent suggestions for ways individuals can help through monetary and food donations, as well as through political activism. You can also always use the “Feed Hungry Kids” tab at the top of every Lunch Tray page to link directly to reputable organizations fighting to alleviate hunger in this country and around the world.