Monday, July 8, 2013

The Answer to Child Hunger?

Not the kids we're talking about...
     You've probably seen news stories or been handed flyers with the disturbing message "17 MILLION KIDS GO HUNGRY";  my wife encountered this concern at a local store and received a pamphlet with basic items she could purchase to alleviate this problem.  The items she donated would be packaged into backpacks, and then given to needy kids.  I've often wondered:  in a country where the overweight/obesity rate is 61.8%, how could this be?  I wrote a letter to the manager of this program that follows below, but succinctly, the only way to explain kids going hungry in the richest nation in the history of the world, with ample food stamp programs and food banks in every city, is that their parents just don't care about them.  Such people are so obsessed with their own financial gratification that they can't be bothered to feed their kids... and instead of holding them accountable for such inhuman callousness, we do their job for them.  Imagine telling a wife with 2 black eyes from regular beatings from her abusive husband:  "If your husband isn't treating you right, we'll give you a backpack with a first aid kit... you can use it on your black eyes!"  Any sane person would physically drag that woman out of that house and call the cops... exactly what should happen with kids suffering from neglect.
Dear sir,     My wife recently received an appeal when entering a local store for your program (I'm sorry I don't know the name... it's not printed on the handout).  She was told it was for kids, to fill backpacks for weekend meals.  Is this accurate?  Assuming so, I have heard of similar drives and even proposals by the government to ensure that school-age children are adequately fed.
     Obviously, I have no problem with giving food to kids... it's a lot better than handing out pistols or drugs!  But I did want to ask the question if such programs are doing more harm than good.  "How is this possible?" you might ask.  "Ensuring kids get healthy, hearty meals is something we all agree is necessary and essential!"  And I would agree with that basic statement... but who is responsible to feed kids?  Again, assuming you don't hold radical fascist views on child rearing (i.e. that the government should oversee/control parenting), the clear answer is "Their parents."
     We live in a society where most of the population is fabulously wealthy by world standards:  just about everyone has cable TV and a cellphone, to say nothing of daily nutrition.  But for the rare folks at the bottom of the economic ladder, our governmental programs have removed financial inability as an excuse for child hunger;  anyone with children can get ample government assistance for their meals.  I have several members of my extended family who receive such assistance;  I have a good idea of the amounts involved.
     So the only reason that kids, even of the poorest parents, would not be regularly fed is gross neglect by said parents.  Such behavior should be criminal (and is, I think) and their children should be removed from their care.  So with this perspective in mind, I hope you can see my concern:  programs such as yours assume the best thing for kids in this situation is to feed them and enable their parents to continue neglecting them.  It's likely you have never thought about this point of view.  Instead, I believe the best thing we can do expect adults to live up to their responsibilities, and hold them accountable when they fail to do so.  When you look at the history of our country, you see such personal responsibility at the core of our deepest values as a society.  I applaud your concern for kids and your desire to help where you can;  but I would counsel you towards a wiser approach that trains parents to care their children, rather than training them to expect others to do it for them.
Photo courtesy of FMSC

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