Children and Poverty

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Children and Poverty

With the recent cuts to SNAP/Food Stamp benefits I decided to take a look at how children are affected by this decrease. How poor are America’s youngest and most vulnerable citizens?

According to an article published by the Children’s Defense Fund 16.1 million children in America are poor, that’s every 5th child. If that sounds bad the next statistic will horrify you. Every 10th child or 7.1 million children are extremely poor. Every fourth child (infant through pre-school) is poor, 5 million to be exact. One in eight children from infants to pre-schoolers is VERY poor. Stunned yet? The majority of these children are children of color.

You may ask yourself how this is possible in the USA. In 1964 then President Lyndon Johnson declared a War on Poverty in America. That was fifty years ago. Now, in 2014 , child poverty has reached record proportions, with children of color the most negatively affected group. Statistics from 2011 indicate that “in an average month … 1.2 million households with children” had no cash income and relied on SNAP benefits to feed their families. The House of Representatives just passed the Farm Bill cutting $800 million dollars a year from the Food Stamp program.  That’s about one percent, less than the five percent the House sought.

Now 1% does not sound like a staggering amount but when you take into consideration children were already living at or below the poverty level it will make a huge impact. Research has shown that it would take 2.5 full time minimum wage jobs for a parent to afford a two bedroom apartment. With less for food a parent has to make up the difference somewhere. How much farther can they stretch those limited food dollars?  In the year 2011-2012 homelessness among families with children had risen by 73% with almost 1.2 million public school students reported as homeless. The same report states that 1 in 9 students were not adequately fed in the same time period.

The argument that children receive free breakfast and lunch in the public schools does not solve this problem. Children under school age do not receive this assistance. Additionally 89% of the children who received free or reduced lunch during the school year do not receive meals through the Summer Food Service Program. This means that SNAP benefits are all that is available for child nutrition.

The statistics are even worse for children of color, children in single parent families, and children in the South. Rapid brain development takes place in children two and under. Over one-third of these children of color under two were poor in 2012. What does that bode for the future?

With less than half of 3-4 year olds enrolled in pre-school programs, early funding for Head Start programs for children under 3 serving only 4% of the 2.9 million eligible and only 41% of the two million eligible 3-4 year olds enrolled, almost 60% of all children in 4th and 8th grade unable to read at grade level (2013), and only 78% of students graduated from public high schools in four years there is some indication that child poverty is having a severe impact on the development of American children. The future for these children is bleak and darker for the country at large. America’s ability to compete in global markets in the future will be seriously impaired by the neglect we demonstrate now.

Even if we put aside the irresponsibility and inhumanity of allowing children to suffer in poverty the future of American technology is threatened. Personally I am appalled by these numbers. I am appalled by the huge amounts of money channeled into corporations, our American president and his family taking numerous and costly vacations, a government shutdown where our representatives still got a paycheck while the homeless population grew. Something is seriously wrong here. If we don’t speak out we condone cuts in programs that affect the most innocent of our population, children. Think about when you go to the grocery store and watch a parent choosing the least expensive cereal, when you set dinner plates of balanced nutritious meals before your families. Somewhere a child is hungry and homeless. Somewhere a parent is trying to stretch food dollars to feed a family of four on dollars designed for a family of one or two.

 

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