It’s been a long, lean summer for children in poverty already.
Without the free breakfast and lunch of the school year, a lot of these kids scramble to scrape together one meal a day.
Salvation Army pantries in the hardest hit neighborhoods are seeing a jump of 100 and even 200 percent in the number of men and women seeking food assistance. And pantry staff report serving more and more surprising faces, from former white collar personnel to college students who are struggling to find part time jobs.
That’s from the Salvation Army in NYC. This is from Columbus, Ohio:
Two months into the school year, half the district’s students had signed up for financial assistance on school meals, compared with 35 percent two years earlier. Districts across the state have experienced the same trend.
The number of schoolchildren receiving government assistance through food stamps and Ohio Works First — a cash-assistance program to help move the poor off public aid and into jobs — has jumped 23 percent during the past two years, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services….
And Witchita, Kansas:
"We’re seeing a lot more babies, a lot more 2- to 5-year-olds, and we’re seeing more extended families come in here," said Wendy Glick, director of the diner.
What that probably means, she said, is that people are sharing living arrangements, bringing multiple generations under one roof.
"We ran out of high chairs," she added. "We had 15, so we bought five more. The high chairs and booster seats are now always full."
Pretty much all over the country, there is need and want.
The National Center for Children In Poverty has information on each state — demographics on how many children live below the poverty line, how many are in families of "working poor," you name it. They have a wealth of information on raw and analyzed data.
What they can’t tell you?
How that gnawing feeling of hunger feels to a three year old who doesn’t understand why she’s going to bed without supper for the second day in a row. Or why momma keep crying about it and daddy is always out looking for another job. Or why her older brother isn’t bringing home half his lunch from kindergarten to share with her over the summer in the evenings, because he’s hungry, too, now.
Whatever second stimulus may be coming down the pike? How about we include some aid for child hunger something in it?
Some stopgap measure to prevent the loss of an entire generation of children who didn’t ask to be born into poverty? Because the effects of malnutrition at this early age last a lifetime — and hungry children can’t exactly concentrate on learning, let alone function without nourished bodies and brains.
Let’s try a little compassion and some common sense for the least of these among us.
If you can, consider donating to a food pantry near you. They are all — everywhere around the country — overwhelmed with demand. And that donation of canned goods and veggies? Just might be feeding the kids next door or your child’s best friend at school. You never know.
Prior articles in this child poverty series: making child poverty a priority; mortgaging the nation’s future Part I and Part II; better childhood nutrition Part I and Part II; give kids a head start; bringing poverty to the table Part I and Part II; true compassion, and Will children be casualties of the stimulus compromise?.