Why are So Many Children in the US Hungry?


I’m always perplexed when I read statistics like 15.3 million children under the age of 18 do not have adequate access to enough food in their homes.  I do not understand why, with all of the government programs that provide welfare, coupled with the private charities, children are not getting enough food.   What are the reasons?  Things I would ask include:

Are welfare payments simply too small to cover food?  If so, are the parents also going hungry?  Do too many people assume government programs are adequate and therefore not give enough?

Do a lot of people not know where to get assistance?  Or is the system too difficult for people who really need it to get through because of all the fraud?

Do the parents get enough money, but simply choose to do other things besides feed their children with the money?

Do the parents work and their salaries are just too low to provide food, or are there that many parents who are disabled?  Or are they unable to work because of lack of child care?

I’m sure that the answers are varied and very situation dependent, but in general, it appears that what we’re doing doesn’t seem to work.  It is also frightening if the answer is that the amount money supplied is enough to feed the children, but the parents simply choose not to feed their children.  If parents aren’t even willing to do the minimum of providing adequate food for their children, are they providing supervision, ensuring they have an education, and teaching them the morals and values they need to contribute to society?  Probably not.

Perhaps we need to do something different.  If the issue is that the amount of money given isn’t enough, maybe more needs to be given and more work needs to be done to help people provide for themselves (because everyone is better off when more people are working).

If the issue is not enough jobs, maybe we need to look at ways to grow the economy or teach people to provide more for themselves directly (such as growing a garden).

If the issue is that welfare money is being wasted, maybe we need to change how it is distributed and maybe provide goods like food instead of cash.  Maybe we also need to control the money better because perhaps those who tend to stay on welfare for long periods of time aren’t very good at handling money.

Maybe the issue is that people are living in places that are very high cost, but they don’t have a job (or have a job that pays enough).  In that case, it might make sense to encourage people to move to lower cost areas to make welfare dollars stretch.

So who knows the answers to these questions?  Is there anyone on welfare who can say if the amount received is enough to cover everything if you use it wisely?  What could be done to improve the situation?  Does anyone work with welfare families who could provide some insight?  I’d love to get your input.

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  1. I think there are a lot of factors involved, many having to do with what you list. The problem is political in my view as there are too many vested interests involved in our current method for change to happen, which is drastically failing those that need help the most.

    • What kinds of vested interests? Changes I think would help might be getting food directly to the children, maybe through schools or community food banks rather than sending the parents a check if that is the issue. Also, getting children out of homes if the parents are simply neglecting them since they would be better off in foster care or a group home than to be in a home where the parents don’t bother to feed them. If the issue is that the money isn’t enough, we could work to get the parents employed at least at minimum wage and/or increasing the amount provided (maybe by cracking down on fraud so there is more money available). If the issue is bad money management skills, the change would be to provide food directly (and in the form of raw ingredients, which cost less than processed foods) and teach the parents and kids to cook. Who benefits from the status quo?

      • Oh by vested interests I mean the politicians who benefit from keeping people addicted to govt services and exploit them through vote buying by saying the other guy is going to take their benefits away or promising them even more free stuff. There’s also the comapnies set up to provide these services that benefit handsomely from govt contracts and whose boards donate heavily to the politicians that keep them in business.

        It’s incestuous really.and unfortunately the very people things like food stamps and dependent care are supposed to help end up victimized by a system that makes it very difficult to ever leave it and crushing their spirit and initiative in the mean time.

        I agree there are some people who truly need help and government assistance is sometimes the only and best route. The programs really need to be strongly reformed to really get those people the help they need but with an emphasis towards self reliance. Some of the suggestions you made are very good but I just don’t see any type of reform happening until we get better people in office. Gee, I”m not too cynical eh? 😉

      • I agree reform is needed. We had that for a few years with the welfare reform of the 1990’s, which created a work requirement. I remember reading an article where one woman commented that she “had respect for herself for the first time in her life” when she started a job. Unfortunately, those reforms have all be reversed.

        I don’t know if getting better people in office is enough. It continues no matter who gets into office. I think it will take a change in society, maybe education through the grass roots and just a general insistence on people being better. I’m trying to do my part though my blog, teaching people how to be self-reliant and get into the position where they can help those who truly need help. We need others to step up to the plate as well.

      • Yes, I really enjoy that aspect of your blog in teaching self reliance. I try and do that too from a more emotional perspective in getting people to stop thinking of themselves as victims in need of a govt savior.

  2. I do know that underemployment and stagnant wages have been an issue, but who knows whether or not that is having an impact. In any case, you ask some very astute questions. Excellent post!

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