Posted In: Minnesota, Moving in Congress, New York
by Colleen Flaherty
Edwin Wensman is a retired English teacher in White Bear Lake, Minn. where child hunger is very real.
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“I currently deliver food packages every Thursday to many of our local elementary children who are in need of food to get them through the weekends when they can’t rely on breakfasts and lunches provided by the local school district,” said Wensman.
Even in what Wensman says is a “well-to-do” suburb of St. Paul, he personally delivered 70 packages to one elementary school for just one week. Wensman’s story is no anomaly; a majority of students in the South (53 percent) and, for the first time, the West (50 percent) live in poverty, and now, access to food for children in low-income families may be compromised again.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, also known as food stamps, were cut for more than 47 million lower-income people last week. According to the USDA, the cuts will leave people on food stamps an average of $1.40 to spend on each meal.
“This is not the America I fortunately grew up and thrived in,” said Wensman.
Currently, more than 1 in 4 children in the U.S. live in a home that receives food stamps. Eighty-seven percent of SNAP recipients live in households with children, seniors or people with disabilities. Between 2008 and 2012, 1 in 5 U.S. households with children sometimes did not have enough money to buy food.
Now, Congress is renegotiating the farm bill that funds SNAP, and the program could face further draconian cuts.
The House of Representatives wants to cut up to an additional $40 billion over ten years from the food stamp program and eliminate eligibility for school meals for families, potentially cutting more than 200,000 children from the school meals program.
New York educator Ronald Meltzer is worried about what these deep cuts mean, and not just for low-income families.
“So many of the the disabled students I work with live in families getting SNAP,” said Meltzer. “I have no idea what these families are going to do.”
Access to proper nutrition is key for a student’s performance, according to the Nutrition Cognition Initiative at Tufts University. Continuous low nutritional intake affects factors such as motivation and attentiveness, which can have a negative impact on learning. In addition, undernourished children are typically fatigued and uninterested in their social environments.
More importantly, says Meltzer, Congress needs to provide the most basic safety net for our nation’s most vulnerable.
“[Some Congressmen] talk about making cuts to help today’s children tomorrow. How about helping them now?”