Oh. My. God. In the "richest country in the world". There are no words for how unacceptable this is:
Nearly half of all U.S. children and 90 percent of black youngsters will be on food stamps at some point during childhood, and fallout from the current recession could push those numbers even higher, researchers say.
The estimate comes from an analysis of 30 years of national data, and it bolsters other recent evidence on the pervasiveness of youngsters at economic risk. It suggests that almost everyone knows a family who has received food stamps, or will in the future, said lead author Mark Rank, a sociologist at Washington University in St. Louis.
"Your neighbor may be using some of these programs but it's not the kind of thing people want to talk about," Rank said.
The analysis was released Monday in the November issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. The authors say it's a medical issue pediatricians need to be aware of because children on food stamps are at risk for malnutrition and other ills linked with poverty.
"This is a real danger sign that we as a society need to do a lot more to protect children," Rank said.
My brother is an elementary school teacher in a mostly minority area, and we've talked about this before. He told me that the school lunch program is often the only meal many children at his school get each day. And we know how healthy those meals are. My brother (and other teachers) have taken to buying fresh fruit out of their own meager salaries to make available to these kids.
The ramifications of this heartbreaking demographic will reverberate over decades: in health statistics, in education levels, in our economy, in crime statistics. And it's a situation for which no one should be complacent.