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Why Childhood Hunger Is EVERYONE’S Concern: Please Feed Our Children, Mr. President

Recently, I read an article on the website, Scary Mommy, highlighting the viral post of a teacher who maintains a food pantry in her classroom for hungry kids. Most of her students come from a low-income demographic and struggle with food insecurity. Our current POTUS administration is threatening to cut the school lunch program budget and defund the after school/breakfast/snack food programs many families have come to rely on, and this is just not acceptable. Not in a first world country as well-to-do as the United States.

What most people in support of this bill don’t seem to realize is that as wealthy of a nation as we are, our citizens are struggling with poverty and hunger still. Almost one in five households in 2014 were faced with food insecurity – meaning that their monthly food budget was used up long before the end of the month and they couldn’t stretch it any farther to feed their families consistently or nutritiously.

Over 31 million children participated in the Free Lunch program back in 2012. This is America and our neighbors are starving!?! Yet our government believes that there is no visible benefit to providing free or reduced cost access to nutritional items for our children outside of our homes. (Or the elderly, but we’re not going to touch on that this time.) It’s no concern of theirs whether or not these kids can get a proper education due to the distraction of a stomach that won’t stop rumbling or a mouth that cannot stop salivating over thoughts of food. Shame on them!

Read through the comments on the news articles popping up all over social media reporting on these proposed budget cuts, and there is a single, very perversely misconstrued notion which supporters are using to defend this atrocity. They say tax payers are already forking out their hard-earned wages to give the people who rely on their children being fed at school SNAP benefits, so therefore they shouldn’t be hungry and are just being greedy. Somehow, these people believe that those participating in these state aid food assistance programs have unlimited funds with which to eat better than the upper-middle-class families who choose to spend on large homes, luxury brand vehicles, and designer labels over groceries.

This is so far from reality that it blows my mind.

First off, SNAP benefits are strictly rationed out in a set monthly amount, which is determined through income analysis. The application process is tedious and requires a full disclosure of one’s finances and assets. Most families receiving these benefits are working families, too. They just happen to be stuck in the minimum wage earning bracket, which is not enough to support even a single adult living meagerly.

A family of four making around $15-20,000 annually are only allotted about $450 a month in food expenses. A family of 6, like mine, with $35,000 in yearly earnings, only receives $175 a month. Tell me how that is supposed to keep three nutritious meals a day in my children’s bellies? Because it doesn’t. Without the school lunch program, my children wouldn’t be eating lunch at all.

Secondly, isn’t feeding our fellow citizens simply the right thing to do? This country was founded by people of Christian faith who believe strongly in the word of the Bible. In it, it tells of the son of God performing miracles with a loaf of bread and single fish to feed the hundreds of starving and impoverished people he encountered on his mission. Yet these same folks who praise him for doing so turn a blind eye to the same problem inflicting those around them today.

I don’t understand this in the least.

The people of such a great nation should be taking care of one another. Loving thy neighbor. Helping others in their times of need. Not aiding in the suffering thereof and causing the next generation to lose hope in humanity – especially when we do have proof that good nutrition promotes good learning and brain development.

The cost of the school food programs is barely a sixteenth of the proposed increase in our military budget, so what are we really hurting by keeping them going? It will hurt so much worse to cut them from the budget.

Knowing what it’s like first-hand to go hungry and need government assistance to make ends meet for the well-being of my children is why, just like the teacher and her invisible safety net from the article I mentioned above, I have an open-door policy at my home. Even when our budget is tighter than usual and I have to make magic to stretch our pantry stock to make it to the next paycheck – much as Jesus did in his miracles with bread and fish – I will never turn a hungry child away.

My four children’s friends tend to come from homes at a much deeper level of poverty than we do and go without food much more often. They know they can come over and ask me to make them a PB&J sandwich or pour them an overflowing bowl of cereal anytime at all. You know it’s bad when they beg to spend the night for days and days in a row, not because they don’t want to be around their own families, but because they know there’s nothing left to eat in their cabinets and fridge until their next SNAP benefit is loaded.

To take away the meals they have at school, sometimes the only meals they’ll get that day, would be devastating and detrimental to a large percentage of our population. We have to speak up and let our government know that we care about the children of this country. That we want all the children of this nation to go to school and focus solely on learning, not the hunger pangs which haunt them because our government doesn’t think they deserve the privilege of being guaranteed food to eat.

I can’t believe I even have to write any of this because logic screams that the innocent children of a first-world country should be taken care of by the people without hesitation.

This isn’t Ethiopia, dammit! Feed our babies, Mr. President!