If Kids Are Going Hungry, Does Anyone Care Why?

No one wants to see children go hungry, so one’s natural instinct is to sympathize with a new initiative like No Kid Hungry, which is helping parents and caregivers locate free meals in their communities with a simple text message. But a Richmond Times-Dispatch article profiling the program makes a startling statement:

The school year is over this week for most local schoolchildren, which means so are the daily meals many of them rely on as their main — and sometimes only — source of nourishment.

Note the RTD’s emphasis: School breakfast and lunch programs are sometimes the only source of nourishment for American school children. The RTD is asserting, presumably drawing upon the authority of its sources, that some kids in America don’t have access to any food during the summer. Is that not an astonishing statement? If true, is that not an an extraordinary indictment of our social safety net?

In the month of March 2019, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (popularly known as food stamps) spent $83.5 million on nutritional assistance in Virginia. Benefits were doled out to 705,000 individuals — an average of $118 per person. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued $81.4 million for WIC (women, infants and children) for health and nutritional assistance in Virginia in fiscal 2019. In March 2019 the state unemployment rate was 2.9% — in other words, almost everyone who wanted a job had a job.

Either there are massive holes in the social safety net or something else is going on. If the RTD statement is true, the problem is not that low-income families and kids are going hungry at the end of the month when the food-stamp money runs — $118 per month, or $4 a day, is not much to feed someone. The problem is that large numbers of children are going entirely without. The implication is that some children would be starving without No Kid Hungry to connect them with a local food pantry.

If children would be starving without food pantries, then it would strike me that the curiosity of the social justice warriors in the RTD newsroom would be piqued. Who are these children? Where are they? How has the system failed them? Can the problem be laid at the feet of Republicans and the Trump administration?

Or might there be other explanations? Could single mothers’ budgets be stretched by live-in boyfriends who don’t qualify for food stamps? Could drug addicts be selling their allowances for cash? Is SNAP mal-administered and failing to reach all those who should receive benefits? Is the magnitude of the problem being exaggerated by a professional caring class whose livelihoods depend upon fostering a sense of crisis?

If Virginia children were starving, one way to document the extent of the problem is to track the number of hospital admissions in Virginia relating to malnutrition. I can’t find any such data on the Internet. Insofar as malnutrition does occur, from what I can glean from a quick scan of the online literature, it is associated mainly with older adults, not children. But there’s no substitute for calling up hospitals and asking them directly. Maybe child nutrition is a real problem. Or maybe it is a canard.

The media and the caring class view nutritional issues through the “food desert” lens. Their gut reaction is that the problem requires more government programs and philanthropic programs. They may be right. But I have no confidence that we’re getting the full story. And I don’t see us getting it any time soon.

Update: It has been pointed out to me, and I agree, that I made an unjustified leap of logic when I leaped from the RTD’s statement that “the only source of nourishment for American school children” came from school lunches to the implication that school lunches were the only source of “food.” As Peter Galuszka notes in the comments below, food is not the same as nourishment. Kids may have access to “food” in the form of junk food and sodas during the summer, but not nourishment. That is a fair criticism.

Either way, I would argue, the social safety net still is dysfunctional, the causes of mal-nourishment are still worth delving into, and the conventional wisdom of the poverty-industrial complex still should be questioned.

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15 responses to “If Kids Are Going Hungry, Does Anyone Care Why?

  1. I should also think that the intrepid reporters of the Richmond Times Dispatch would be feverishly searching for where all the bodies are hidden, the corpses of infants, toddlers and adolescents. After all there must be thousands of the little dead bodies. No infant, child or kid can live a whole summer long with neither food nor drink.

  2. And herein – we have the essential difference between a Conservative and a Liberal!

    A Liberal says ” there is a problem and we need to respond to it”.

    A Conservative says “Why are children starving? What the hell is going on?

    🙂

    😉

  3. “A Liberal says ” there is a problem and we need to respond to it”.”

    No, a rational, serious, honest person of any and all political persuasions says define, describe, prove, and show the problem so we can fix it effectively, instead of making demagogic claims of false problems ginned up solely for cheap political advantage so as to hide and obfuscate real problems of real human beings for private advantage, like Maduro does and Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro did.

  4. Nope. A liberal simply sees a child who does not have enough food and goes from there… the priority is to get them food first then figure out what the hell is going on!!!

    The Conservative wants to know what the hell is going on – first.

    • I agree completely. Problem is that The Richmond Times Dispatch reporters cannot or will not produce such starving or dead children that they scream to exist and suffer every summer day by the thousands throughout every summer in Richmond.

      These Richmond Times Dispatch reporters are serial virtue signalers of the worse kind of apparent liars, chronically frivolous vapid people who can’t produce the starving bodies they claim while simultaneously they refuse to see the dead and dying bodies of unborn children who are aborted by the thousands every year everywhere around them. Are you of one those kind too? Hope not.

  5. Liberals give a man a fish, conservatives teach a man to fish. If large portions of the population cannot/will not provide food for the children they produce and care for, asking why not is logical. Child neglect is a crime. The answer, certainly in some cases (not all), is because others are happy to take that responsibility for them. Jeeze, I hate seeing this stuff over and over and over – this was a story I looked at almost 40 years ago in Roanoke, and the story even then was that the network of assistance, public and private, was robust. Since then the federally-funded programs have expanded. If somebody wants to set up a new communications tool, fine. (Shhh -real story here: Most of America’s economically-challenged do have and use smart phones somehow. They have better computer tech in their pockets than the astronauts on the moon. We’re such an AWFUL country!)

    And Larry, it will warm your liberal heart to know that my story sparked a move in Virginia to stop the practice of applying sales tax to food stamp purchases. Virginia was collecting more in sales tax than it was spending on managing the program – it was making a profit! I’m such a heartless right winger! (Actually I’ll push a tax cut for anybody anywhere….:)) I think Bobby Scott carried the bill.

    I think most of these parents could take care of their children, but I really can’t fault them for taking advantage of things which are offered. It’s not a situation of potential starvation in most cases, not at all.

  6. I gave this blog posting a sniff and something didn’t smell right. . Then I saw. It is woefully underdone.
    The key word is “nourishment.” Poor kids may not get nourishment meaning healthy food during the summer. They may go back to a convenience store diet of junk food and sugary drinks. I also went back and read the RTD. NOWHERE does it suggest that kids are going to starve.
    This is nourishment a la Bacon. I give it one star.

    • You are right to draw a distinction between “nourishment” — the word the RTD used — and “food,” which I used. Upon reflection, I would agree that I went a bit overboard when I said that the implication of the RTD article was that children were starving. Such a conclusion is not necessarily implied. So, thank you.

      On the other hand, your observation supports my larger argument. If kids are suffering from a lack of “nourishment” because they are going back to a convenience-store diet of junk food and sugary drinks, what does that say about our social safety net? The SNAP program subsidizes consumption of unhealthy, non-nutritious food, which contributes to obesity, diabetes and other issues, and then society is expected to turn around and pay for the attendant health care costs.

      Bottom line: The problem is not a lack of resources spent on food, but how those resources are spent.

  7. Now suddenly we are onto another altogether different subject, namely”

    Obesity is common, serious, and costly

    The prevalence of obesity was 39.8% and affected about 93.3 million of US adults in 2015~2016. [Read CDC National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) data briefCdc-pdf PDF-603KB]
    Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer that are some of the leading causes of preventable, premature death. [Read guidelinesExternal]
    The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the United States was $147 billion in 2008 US dollars; the medical cost for people who have obesity was $1,429 higher than those of normal weight. [Read paperExternal]

    Obesity affects some groups more than others

    [Read CDC National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) data briefCdc-pdf [PDF-603KB]]

    Hispanics (47.0%) and non-Hispanic blacks (46.8%) had the highest age-adjusted prevalence of obesity, followed by non-Hispanic whites (37.9%) and non-Hispanic Asians (12.7%).
    The prevalence of obesity was 35.7% among young adults aged 20 to 39 years, 42.8% among middle-aged adults aged 40 to 59 years, and 41.0% among older adults aged 60 and older.

    Obesity and socioeconomic status

    [Read the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)]

    The association between obesity and income or educational level is complex and differs by sex and race/ethnicity.

    Overall, men and women with college degrees had lower obesity prevalence compared with those with less education.
    By race/ethnicity, the same obesity and education pattern was seen among non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, and Hispanic women, and also among non-Hispanic white men, although the differences were not all statistically significant. Although the difference was not statistically significant among non-Hispanic black men, obesity prevalence increased with educational attainment. Among non-Hispanic Asian women and men and Hispanic men there were no differences in obesity prevalence by education level.
    Among men, obesity prevalence was lower in the lowest and highest income groups compared with the middle income group. This pattern was seen among non-Hispanic white and Hispanic men. Obesity prevalence was higher in the highest income group than in the lowest income group among non-Hispanic black men.
    Among women, obesity prevalence was lower in the highest income group than in the middle and lowest income groups. This pattern was observed among non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic Asian, and Hispanic women. Among non-Hispanic black women, there was no difference in obesity prevalence by income.

    For more see:
    https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html

    Should the US Government force feed America’s children, given the lack of healthy eating habits in America?

  8. I thought LBJ was going to fix all of this with the Great Society. Let’s see. LBJ was president from November 1963 through January 1969. That’s more that 50 years ago since he left office. How could this be?

    No one holds government accountable for its performance. If it cannot succeed why do we keep growing it?

    A thoughtful group of people would try to identify the root cause of children being hungry in the summer. Not some jazzhole politician or turd reporter or columnist but real thoughtful and intelligent people who aren’t afraid of the truth. Then develop a program that addresses the root cause, eliminate other related programs and transfer the funding to the new one.

  9. I guess it’s a stretch to ask parents to drop the multi-hundred dollar smart phones, tattoos, hair dos, cars, or fashionable clothes to feed their spawn.
    First: My parents gave us little for Xmas, didn’t have cable, never bought new fashionable clothes, and had one crappy car so we could eat and have decent shoes. So take some responsibility parents. My girls have always been priority one over stuff.
    Second: Taking care of children is a western construct, so who are we to tell people of other cultures how to raise their children. I say stay out of it, take care of your own kids first, and let the chips fall where they fall. Besides any laws would just disproportionately affect someone, somewhere, so Northam or the new wave of urban prosecutors will just ignore the western-constructed “crime”.
    I have personally stopped all charity or volunteer work. If it’s mainstream to take my taxes to fix all social ills or hire “social engineers” with fat salaries in schools and localities then that’s all I’m giving. The rest I’ll use for my escape fund.

  10. “If it’s mainstream to take my taxes to fix all social ills or hire “social engineers” with fat salaries in schools and localities then that’s all I’m giving. The rest I’ll use for my escape fund.”

    NorrhsideDude –

    Your personal “escape fund” will be the last escape fund in America. Your kids surely will not have any escape fund. They will be trapped instead. Their politicians, having wasted your taxes for decades, simultaneously have saddled your kids and grandkids with $22 Trillion in public debt as of right now. Plus they have just started stealing from your children’s future. What is going on is right now the biggest theft in world history, all of it stripped out to the pockets of everyday working American citizens to keep their masters in power and wealth.

  11. A few extra points. I hate to see BR slip into racial stereotyping such as spending money on hairdos and fancy cars and the like. It’s a dog whistle for anti African American sentiment. In the mostly white suburb where I live, plenty of adults have their toys, including gigantic pickups and bass boats with 200 horsepower engines. It doesn’t mean they can pay for them as the 2008 market crash showed. It revealed just how over-leveraged so many were.
    As far as inner city diet, I hate to overuse Richmond as an example, but there are very few grocery stores with fresh fruit and vegetables within walking distance of the poorest parts of the city. This is a the fault of free market economics.
    As far as bitching that one can buy just about any kind of food or drink on a SNAP car displays the conservative, Protestant discipline theme one reads so much on this blog. It also is counter-intuitive. If one is a free market libertarian why should he or she insist that the government tell people what they can buy with their food stamps? Already off limits are alcohol, toilet paper and cleaning materials.

  12. I said nothing about race. There are plenty of people of all ethnicities who spend copious amounts of money at hair salons (they are in all neighborhoods and white women spend plenty on dye jobs, blowouts, and makeup) and lots of white men spend $60k on a 4×4 pickup and shitty tattoos. And everyone has a damn iGadget. But don’t take care of their kids.
    You went to race. I purposely stayed away from any stereotypes, your own bias steered you there Peter.

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