Many of the hungry are wage earners, even former food donors. It's not just the unemployed, or those without work inexplicably excluded from the data. Among the actual youth of the nation, food insecurity's exploding. No, they don't all get taken care of by the churches or Uncle Sam. People fall through the cracks every day.
Maybe we're a third world nation by these numbers. Maybe we've fallen behind four generations. Either way, decisions await us.
So, what is an acceptable number of hungry children for our society?
h/t to C&L
My home state is among the hungriest. At the very height of the Bush boom from 2006-2008, 1 of 8 Oregon households went without. But as we all know, things are very different now from illusory "good" times.
So, how many vacays, purses and Hummers will those with the ability-to-pay be willing to forgo so that less Americans know the pangs? Where do we draw that line?
From the USDA, we know the 2007 Bush depression:
...catapulted the number of Americans who lack enough food to the highest level since the government has been keeping track, according to a new federal report, which shows that nearly 50 million people -- including almost one child in four -- struggled last year to get enough to eat.
...In 2008, nearly 17 million children, or 22.5 percent, lived in households in which food at times was scarce -- 4 million children more than the year before.
This is my local newsteam and the Oregon Food Bank, who I'm so familiar with due to the remarkably poor health of the state system.
"To try and calm a hungry child and get them to go to sleep--so that they won't feel hungry--is terrible."
The good news is that food stamps work, for those who have them.
The bad news is food is still one the most expendable choices of many homes' budgets. Many don't qualify for food stamps. But regardless, other expenses matter. Commuting to work can't cease and loan payments or rent can't be paused. The thing nobody forces households to do is the essential biological function.
Here's one tiny example of why it matters when children don't eat. Believe it or not, sub-clinical nutrient deficiencies are really common, even with the famous vitamin C. But how many know what zinc does?
it appears that zinc deficiency may lead to deficits in children's neuropsychologic functioning, activity, or motor development, and thus interfere with cognitive performance.
Zinc deficiency may be far more common than once thought. Research into its association with diabetes continues, both a precursor and an impediment to successful management. Gee, can you start to imagine a plausible link between something like zinc deficiency and the academic problems and diseases, like diabetes, ascribed to the poor youth and the food insecure? I've touched on one essential nutrient that poorly-fed children lack: what of selenium, copper, iron, chromium? What of biotin, folate and Vitamin A?
Most American youth lack adequate Vitamin D:
A whopping 70 percent of American kids aren't getting enough vitamin D, and such youngsters tend to have higher blood pressure and lower levels of good cholesterol than their peers, according to two new studies published this week in the journal Pediatrics. Low vitamin D levels also may increase a child's risk of developing heart disease later in life, experts say.
The health you have in your early years sticks with you, with consequences for the unfortunate. Why consequences for low cholesterol? For one thing it tends to be found among people most susceptible to various infections. Remember, this is an innate product of the body we're messing with--not the component of your scrambled eggs. And who cares about some obscure vitamin? Well, it matters if you don't want to become seriously depressed or know the pain of osteoporosis--it affects your bones and your personality.
And who knows the extent? Sunshine doesn't cut it, you need to eat lots of Vitamin D. It's found in seafood, whole dairy and other fatty foods including pork, but not-so-much canned vegetables. What poor people can't afford. Fats and proteins are expensive but they also nourish you. To say nothing of satiating your hunger, so you don't feel like eating a bag of chips from the convenience store or Sam's Club.
Feeding children cans of corn or green beans, peanut butter and sandwich bread will provide some vitamins for sure--especially riboflavin, thiamine, niacin. But not zinc and D, let alone other nutrients. Yet that's the kind of food the lucky poor get. And for the chosen mothers who qualify, the WIC program encourages the consumption of nutrient-empty calories like juice, but is frugal about the beans and rice. Which again, are nowhere near providing all of the many many vitamins and minerals a person needs in a day.
And how much else have we forgotten here?
Progress isn't progress if it leaves people hungry. We can pass a health care plan, we can build solar panels from Bellingham to Key West, we can end the war in Iraq. And if Americans still go hungry, at best we'd be fools to pretend we should boss around China or the EU or Iraq or Afghanistan, and possibly in a state of great evil. We're judged by how we treat the least of these, including those we excuse away because we disagree with their choices (or lack thereof) in life. We have choices, too.
America, we must get this house in order.