Jewish World Review August 31, 2011 / 1 Elul, 5771
Thankful a mother isn't alive to see this hungry mess
By Dan K. Thomasson
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | My mother couldn't stand to see a hungry child or one inadequately dressed for the weather. On occasion when she had need to drive me or one of my siblings to school because we had missed the bus, we would pass children obviously suffering from the afflictions of poverty.
"Oh my," she would say, her eyes welling up. She would immediately stop the car to ask the child's name if I didn't recognize him or her. With that information she would find some way to make sure they had a warm coat and other clothing and a basket of food. We certainly weren't wealthy but we were better off than many in those days when the aftershocks of the Depression were still being felt.
When my father died, a letter to the editor of his local newspaper told how the writer and his sister had been sitting disconsolate on the stoop of their small house just before Christmas in the mid-1930s. They were forlorn and hungry realizing that there would be no holiday cheer. Then my father drove up, hopped out with a basket full of food and clothes and presents. My father never spoke of it but the author of the letter never forgot it more than 40 years later.
There weren't many government safety nets for unfortunate Americans in those days. People through their churches and social organizations and just plain individuals picked up the slack where they could. That is still true, of course. But the urbanization of America has contributed to the still startling number of children in what the experts call "food insecure households"-- homes where boys and girls aren't certain whether they will have anything to eat that day or the next or even the next.
One of the most tragic, inexcusable statistics I have seen in years has nothing to do with the political shenanigans of this town, the inability of the Congress to stop our financial bleeding or the president's slipping approval rating as the economy deteriorates. It is simply that the District of Columbia leads the nation in the percentage of children who aren't receiving enough to eat at home.
A list of states and the federal enclave compiled by the Con Agra Foods Foundation and reprinted recently in The New York Times reveals that in the District 32.3 percent or 36,870 boys and girls face food deprivation.
The District is followed closely by Oregon with 29.2 percent or 252,510 children and Arizona and Arkansas with 28.8 percent and 28.6 percent respectively. Texas, which Gov. Rick Perry in his presidential campaign cites as a model of economic success, has 28.2 percent or a whopping 1.87 million of its kids in the hungry category.
Other states in the top 10 percentage wise are Georgia, Mississippi, Nevada, South Carolina and Florida. California is ranked 11th with a percentage of 27.3 or 2.58 million, to lead all 51 venues in the actual numbers.
Altogether, there are a startling 17.1 million youngsters or one quarter of the nation's children who aren't being properly fed, who often go to bed hungry and trudge off in the morning stomachs growling until they get to school where they receive some sustenance if some politician hasn't decided feeding them costs too much. In the District the number of students eligible for free or reduced cost food at school is a startling 76 percent.
A large number, but by no means all, of these children nationwide live in the inner cities of our urban sprawl -- African and Hispanic Americans and other ethnic groups. There are also a large number of white children suffering, particularly in the rural South and Appalachia. Hunger obviously makes no ethnic distinction. With joblessness stubbornly resisting improvement, the numbers are growing steadily and the pressures being put on the public school systems and other community services are accelerating at the same rate.
For the District of Columbia to lead the nation in hungry kids in the shadow of the Capitol and the White House is disgraceful, an unforgivable national tragedy. If those who run this government so badly these days do nothing else, they should end this. My mother would demand it if she were alive.
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