Archives for posts with tag: kids

Hunger1

Is this what some Members of Congress think when they go home at night? Since their kids have enough food to eat, why should they worry about those pesky 17 million who don’t know where their next meal is going to come from?

New data from Feeding America tells us that 50 million Americans are food insecure, and that 17 million of these individuals are kids. Kids who need adequate nutrition in order for their minds and bodies to develop properly. Kids who desperately need enough food to succeed in school – and ultimately, in life.

Food security/insecurity refers to food availability and an individual’s ability to access it. Essentially, it means whether or not a person is sure of where their next meal is coming from. Click here to see more information about food insecurity from the Food Research and Action Center.

Again: 50 million people are food insecure. Think about it – that means a LOT of people don’t have a reliable way to get food on a daily basis. And a lot of these people depend on government assistance such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, in order to get the little sustenance that they can.

A lot of fiscal conservatives think that the SNAP program is out of control – and they want to cut it. They cite the fact that the SNAP participant rolls have increased substantially over the last few years and thus, spending on the program has gone up. Yep – that’s true. And it’s also true that the recession put millions of people out of jobs, out of their homes, and into food insecure positions and poverty. So it kind of seems like common sense that the number of people on SNAP would increase as poverty increased.

Still, many in Congress don’t seem to comprehend (or care) how devastating it would be to take away programs like SNAP from impoverished families. Right now, Congress is trying to come to an agreement on the farm bill – legislation that sets federal policy on forestry, nutrition, conservation and agriculture – and both chambers have set out plans to deeply cut nutrition aid.

The Senate has already passed a farm bill (S. 954) that cuts SNAP funding by $4.1 billion over ten years. Although unacceptable in the eyes of most nutrition advocates, this is almost a paltry sum compared to the House farm bill now being debated (H.R. 1947), which plans to slash $20.5 billion from the program over the same time period.

Today Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) will bring an amendment to the House floor to reverse the SNAP cuts in H.R. 1947. The amendment does not have enough votes to pass, that is clear – but the level of support it gets will be a prime indicator of the bill’s future.

It’s clear to me – as it should be to all Members of Congress – that cutting SNAP will hurt and endanger millions of families and their children. Rest assured that everyone in the nutrition advocacy community will continue to fight tirelessly to keep our kids fed…

…but what can YOU do? Contact your MOCs today and tell them that cuts to SNAP in the farm bill are unconscionable. It doesn’t take much effort, but it’s something. And those 50 million will thank you.

Stayed tuned – the fight’s not over yet.

For more on cuts to nutrition in the farm bill, read my last two articles for CHN: House and Senate Agriculture Committees Back Farm Bills with Significant Cuts to SNAP (May 29) and Senate Passes Farm Bill with Cuts to SNAP as House Prepares to Bring Even More Devastating Bill to the Floor (June 17).

Via UpWorthy. ORIGINAL: Photograph by Brandon Stanton for Humans of New York.

A New York City photographer ran into two teenage boys dressed nicely one recent night. He asked them what they were up to.

“We just got back from the prom.”

“Did you have dates?”

“Um, yeah.”

For as much as I disliked being around teenagers this weekend – I was stuck on a bus with about a dozen spoiled, drunk, drug-peddling 16-year old kids swigging out of bottles of vodka-spiked Gatorade and saying the absolute most vulgar things imaginable – this picture of teen romance is uplifting and beautiful.

It wasn’t that long ago that these boys might have been beaten up for taking this picture, or for going to a dance together. And there are a lot of places in the world where they still might be. But that is slowly changing and I am overjoyed to see it happening.

On the other hand, not all teenagers bring a smile to my face.

Back to the bus this weekend.

Sex was a big topic of conversation for these upper-middle class kids on their way to a music festival (free of parental supervision and already a bit intoxicated). One of the boys loudly announced that he “likes sex more than sleep.” Another young couple (obviously the popular kids at their high school) made it clear to everyone that they were sleeping together. When we asked if they used condoms, the girl and I had this exchange:

“Why? I’m on birth control.”

“Umm, what about STDs?”

“Who has STDs?”

“Well, do you really trust your boyfriend?”

Silence.

“Please tell me that you’ll at least use condoms when you’re single and in college.”

Silence. 

“Maybe….”

[Boyfriend interjects]  “Condoms SUCK!”

Oh boy.

Living in Washington DC, where the HIV epidemic still rages with 2.7% of the population infected, this seems like a ludicrous way of thinking. But then I remembered: she’s 16. This is the result of an extremely sexualized media and a lack of basic sex education.

Let’s remember a few facts:

Put simply, kids are going to have sex. Duh. Therefore, they are going to be at risk of contracting an STD or getting pregnant.

So they should have all the necessary knowledge to make safe decisions, right? It doesn’t mean that they will choose wisely, but at least it alerts them of the risks.

As I’ve touched on before in this blog, the idea that teaching comprehensive sex education in schools is equal to encouraging teens to have sex  is ridiculous. It’s going to happen. Or it’s not – that depends on the teen. But either way, kids should have all of the information they need to make the right choices.

That’s why there’s a growing movement to make comprehensive sex ed a requirement in American public schools. Currently it’s only mandated in 22 states and DC – what about the kids in the other 28?

If you know a teen in need of sex education (or any teen at all), tell them to visit ScarleTeen, “Sex Ed for the Real World.” It’s a great resource with advice that I can imagine being able to relate to when I was that age.

Sequestering the Future?

On my way back from Colorado recently, my flight was delayed and I got stuck in Chicago overnight. Annoying? Yes. Life-damaging? Most certainly not.

On the other hand, losing access to Head Start (a national anti-poverty program that provides comprehensive child development services to disadvantaged three and four-year olds)? That could really have a damaging impact on a young person’s life. A California study cited by the National Head Start Association shows that society receives nearly $9 in benefits for every $1 invested in Head Start for a child. These benefits include increased future earnings, employment, and family stability for the child along with decreased dependance on welfare, crime, grade repetition, and special education needs.

So what would you suffer through to give these children back their Head Start program? I for one would gladly spend a night stranded in a strange city if that meant that a low-income child would continue to receive these benefits, even for a week.

But that’s ridiculous! You say. No one is making a choice between one or the other. Well, that’s not necessarily true.

Last Friday, Congress approved a bill to end sequestration-caused furloughs of air traffic controllers in hopes of getting flights back on track nationwide – and then they flew home for a week-long recess. This was a great move for people waiting in long lines at airports – but not so great for the millions of vulnerable people suffering deeply because of  sequestration cuts – all of whom Congress ignored on their way out of the office.

So who are these suffering people again? Along with those disadvantaged kids trying to get an education, they are the long-term unemployed, seniors trying to get home care and meal services, and low-income people on the verge of homelessness – just to name a few.
A few quick facts about how sequestration is affecting our most vulnerable in various places around the country:

  • In Florida, approximately 2,000 kids will be turned away from Head Start and Early Head Start next year.
  • 80,000 long-term unemployed in Illinois will see their unemployment benefits reduced by 16.8 percent as of May 27.
  • Wisconsin’s La Crosse County will start serving 6,000 fewer meals to home-bound seniors because of sequestration cuts. For some seniors, this meal is the only one they get in an entire day.
  • A $1 million sequestration cut to the Salt Lake County Housing Authority will deny rental assistance to about 112 homeless/housing endangered families.

So why is ending tiresome airport lines more pressing than helping a child get a good education or getting a poor family into a home that they can afford? Simply put: M-O-N-E-Y. Airlines are big money power players, and the travel sector was losing millions of dollars for each day of continued furloughs. Airline execs were chomping at the bit to get these pesky sequestration furloughs fixed before the summer travel season. “That’s a critical time for our industry,” says Erik Hansen, director of domestic policy for the U.S. Travel Association.  He fears that the delays may have kept some international travelers from booking trips to the US.

Of course, travel and tourism are good for the economy – and everyone wants to see the economy continue to improve. But keep one thing in mind: helping vulnerable people become active participants in the economy is crucial to recovery as well. Making sure that kids receive a good education and are put on the path to college early in life makes it much more likely that they will get well-paying jobs and contribute to the economy in a positive way. Keeping families off of the street enables parents to hold down jobs and kids to stay in school. Helping seniors stay healthy means less of an economic strain from emergency room visits. The list goes on and on.

Do I have the answer to fixing all of the problems presented by sequestration while working to reduce the deficit? No. But I know that continuing to ignore the devastating problems it is creating for low-income people nationwide is not okay. I hope that our elected officials in Congress get their priorities straight upon returning from recess.

To ask Congress to protect important programs for low-income populations, take action with the National Education Association’s Ed Flight Campaign or send this emailable letter from the Coalition on Human Needs.