The Denial of Child Hunger
August 27, 2012
On August 5, 2012, in the Alaska Dispatch, Anchorage School Board member and candidate for State Senate, Don Smith, wrote an article defending his position not to support an expansion of the after-school meals program from 7 to 12 schools throughout the District. “I’m concerned that the Anchorage School District is moving into a program that expands the entitlement mentality that we have in the United States, Alaska and in our school district. Currently we provide “free” breakfasts, “free” lunches and are now expanding the “free” after-school meal programs within the ASD.”
Anchorage is not alone. Governmental officials are demanding a tax of $10 child per meal from a Philadelphia resident feeding 60 children in her backyard. She receives the food she serves from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. State health inspectors visit her routinely and approve of her cleanliness. Yet, the township did not approve of her using her backyard as a gathering site for children to eat. (Think: You are operating a restaurant without a permit. A zone variance is required and that costs $1000.)
Such disregard for what Abram Maslow identified as the primary human need baffles those of us who accept that food is essential for the maintenance of human life. It is evident by newborns who feed not 3 or 4 minutes after leaving the womb. This experience is universal to every human being and, we think, cannot be denied. It is non-negotiable that food is essential to our growth and development.
Yet, the presence of 20.6 million children hungry in America doesn’t elicit a cry of alarm. It is a crisis being endured silently by 1 out of 4 children.
Despite a coordinated campaign between Jeff Bridges, Share Our Strength and The Food Network, the issue has not gained prominence in the national conversation.
Any attempt to understand why child hunger fails to gain traction among rank and file Americans is an exercise in frustration for anti-hunger advocates: it is not believed that child hunger exists.
“How is that possible?” is the normal answer that the Lead Coordinator receives whenever he explains that child hunger is real and that school districts can count the children who are hungry. It took a moment for the Lead Coordinator to understand why the denial of child hunger persists.
It is hard to see hungry children. Poverty is shameful in America. You are ridiculed unmercifully. You know that people are acting out of pity and not from the Christian Love Ethic. So, the mothers of hungry children dress them up in second-hand designer jeans. They sport donated backpacks and listen to gifted mp3 players. The latest slang is the children’s vocabulary and their conversation is the most recent internet-based social event. You cannot LOOK at a poor American child and see that they are hungry. Yet, that child knows that he receives two things from school, education and a meal.
Americans abhor poverty. We hate it. Moviegoers love to see a Horatio Alger story. Give us Sylvester Stallone as Rocky or Will Smith and his Pursuit of Happyness. We need to believe that if we, as an individual are able to sacrifice, the American Dream of prosperity will welcome us with open arms.
Because no one in America wants to look poor, an entire generation of children is being robbed of their health and creative genius.
We at the By2015:AMERICA movement have no intention of sitting by, armed with the knowledge that a crisis of hunger is happening and allow it to occur. On September 1, 2012 we will unveil our plan to establish Children Meal Mission sites/satellites throughout the United States of America. Our vision is to create self-sustaining food distribution/meal sites using an urban farm to site model.
To the children of America, we ask you to continue valiantly holding on. We are coming!