A couple of recent studies about hunger in America have put hunger issues in the spotlight. Onestudy in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine shows that nearly half of all U.S. children, and 90% of black children, will receive Food Stamps at some point during their childhood. A November 16, 2009 report from the USDA showed that the number of Americans experiencing hunger is at the highest rate in 14 years.
The most shocking thing that I read about hunger this week was not the statistics in these reports: it was this comment made by Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation in this USA Today article about childhood hunger.
“There’s no evidence that even consistent poverty in the U.S. produces a nutritional risk,” he says, noting that rich and poor children tend to have about the same intake of protein, vitamins and minerals.
It is shocking to know that there are people who believe that there is no link between poverty and nutrition. Studies from the Food Research and Action Center, Zero to Three, the Tufts University Center on Hunger, Poverty and Nutrition Policy, and the Centers for Disease Control have shown that childhood hunger leads to health problems, school absenteeism, stunted growth, reduced ability to learn, cognitive deficits, and emotional problems.
Anti-hunger programs that promote nutrition — the School Breakfast and School Lunch programs, the WIC program, the Summer Food Service program, the After-school Snack and Meal Program, the Child and Adult Care Food Program — must be strengthened. Child nutrition programs are being reauthorized by congress. The re-authorization process allows Congress to strengthen these programs so that they can help all hungry children in the U.S.
If you’d like to learn more about what’s at stake for Californians in the child nutrition re-authorization process, check out this fact sheet from California Food Policy Advocates. If you would like to contact President Obama, your Senator, or your Congressional Representative about child nutrition re-authorization, visit Feeding America’s Hunger Action Center.