School Kids

Childhood Hunger in America – Myth or Reality?

Dave Green Why Hunger?

The topic of fighting childhood hunger in America gets heated, controversial, and often leaves us with questions and not answers. The issue seems obvious, after all we are talking about kids who don’t have a meal through no fault of their own.

However, some people have a difficult time just “throwing”resources at the problem. In their mind, SNAP benefits (food stamps), government funded food banks, and other government assistance should be solving the problem, and to make matters more complicated, there is a common concern that the benefits received are either abused or wrongfully obtained. All of these are valid concerns we need to address if we want to truly understand the issue.

Who is the face of childhood hunger in America?

There are an astonishing 45 million Americans living below the poverty line. That number includes 16 million children living in poverty. For a family of four, the poverty line is below $23,550 per year. This is the equivalent of a full time job that pays $11.32 per hour, which is 56% higher than minimum wage. Cost of living studies show that in nearly every metro area in America a family of four would need almost double that income for a sustainable lifestyle.

The truth is the face of childhood hunger is most often the family next door. The child on your son’s basketball team, one of the girls in your daughter’s troop, or the family in the apartment across the hall.

Imagine a family like the Gordon’s with a dad who was working two construction jobs to support his wife and kids, yet still struggling to put food on the table, but barely making ends meet. Now imagine something simple happens like the tire on their only car goes flat. One small crisis can mean the difference between a supported family and a hungry one. The Gordon’s are everyday, hardworking Americans just like you.

What about SNAP (food stamp) benefits?

The average SNAP benefit for a family last year was $256 per month. For a family of four that’s only $14 per week of food assistance for each person. Have you ever tried to live on $14 a week for your food budget? It’s nearly impossible.

Can families simply pick up supplemental food at government funded food banks?

No. That’s not how it works. Food banks typically facilitate the government TEFAP program that primarily goes to feed the elderly or homeless, which we believe is a great program. However, if a family with children calls the large metro area food bank they are told no, and get redirected to a series of smaller community organizations that often don’t have the resources or staff to be open regular hours.

This means that if your family is facing a crisis on friday evening, they could potentially go days without being able to even start the process of getting food.

What about people taking advantage of the system?

Yes, unfortunately this happens. There is a very small percentage of the 29 million adult Americans living in poverty that look to take advantage of the system. However, the majority of them are hardworking blue collar Americans with a job and a family. They are doing everything they can to make a living, but if there is any type of emergency, a job change, unexpected medical bills, or simply a car that needs repair, this group is often left to face the difficult situation of having no food for their children.

Will you help?

Do you believe childhood hunger in America deserves our attention? We need you. Help your community by hosting a hunger project, volunteer, or simply pay it forward by providing healthy meals for a family in need.

Pay it Forward