Hungry kids.

A late, brief post today because I was busy all day trying to get my head around a book review, and spending some lovely time with a lovely friend.

Lovely Friend is the Operations Manager of our local food pantry, and as we ate lunch under a brilliant blue sky, swatting away sleepy bees and laughing over family tales, she told me a little bit about her morning’s meeting, along with some facts and figures about hunger in our home state of Illinois — stuff I felt that I should have somehow known.

Stuff that filled me with a shapeless rage.

  1. In the United States of America, there are two states that have budgeted nothing — zero dollars — for hunger relief. Illinois is one of them.
  2. Of all the states — plus the District of Columbia — Illinois ranks dead last in providing breakfasts to needy schoolchildren. #51, in a country with 50 states.
  3. In our own school district, breakfast is provided on a per school basis, according to percentage of children in need. My kids’ school offers breakfast; others in the district do not. Should you be a hungry kid in the wrong neighborhood? Well, good luck to you, then.
  4. And should you be a parent looking for food stamps for your family? Well, start with the 11-page form (among the questions: “Are you or is anyone who lives with you expecting to receive more than $26 in income from a new source within the  next 10 days?”) and expect not one, but two meetings with DHS officials in order to verify your eligibility. In Illinois, many DHS offices have a caseload of more than 2,000. What does the Illinois Department of Human Services think the caseload should be? No more than 600. (In most states, mind you, it’s less than 300).

All of these facts point to one thing: hungry children. I feel numb with the anger. How, exactly, are we served by failing to feed hungry children?

I can hear conservative voices blaming the parents, and you know what — sure. There are a lot of piss-poor parents in this world, some of them unable to get their lives together enough to actually get food for their kids. But even so, maybe especially so: How are we as a society served by allowing any child to go hungry? How are we served by punishing children for the perceived failure of their parents? How can this not be the first item of any budget, anywhere?

Lovely Friend and I finished our lunches, and I picked up some bagels to go. I’ll be toasting them for a light supper tonight, a little cream cheese, some scrambled eggs, fresh fruits and vegetables on the side. My kids will complain about something on their plates — and I, suddenly, will feel grateful that they have the luxury to do so.

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*For more information on hunger in Illinois, and advocacy suggestions:

Feeding Illinois (you’ll also be able to find area food banks, by zip code or county)

The Illinois Hunger Coalition

Heartland Alliance

*For information about hunger/advocacy suggestions across America:

Feeding America

Bill Moyers: Hunger in America (PBS)

2 Comments

  1. I am actually shocked to here that Illinois is so regressive when it comes to child nutrition. They rank lower than Mississippi? That is a disgrace. We have our challenges here in NH but it really is pretty good when it comes to feeding kids.

    And, of course conservatives blame parents, and in some cases rightfully so, but that doesn’t change the fact that kids are not getting proper nutrition. Three cheers for the Family Values crowd!

  2. Michele

     /  September 1, 2009

    Ohio, a comparable state to Illinois, budgets 12 million annually towards hunger relief. How? Well, I imagine legislators get hounded by their consitituents to do it. I don’t relish making phone calls to legislators either, but it really isn’t that hard. So if you’re pissed off about hungry kids, you can call your state representatives and senator and tell them. Or call your school principal or superintendant to ask why all schools aren’t serving free breakfast. I know, I know. Who listens? Will it do any good? Yes. Make the calls. You’ll feel better. We all will.

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