I sat in a meeting today whose sole purpose is to end hunger in our county. We call our selves the “Hunger Alliance” but I prefer to think of us as the Rebel Alliance.
There was a large discussion today–most of our time–over a particular phenomenon that none of us quite understood. It has come up in the past two meetings. Here goes:
- At least 30% of our community has food ‘insecurity’–which means they do not have a steady, stable source of food.
- In the summer, public schools provide free lunches. I believe this is a no-questions-asked free lunch to any child or family who wants it.
- Last year, they even put the lunches on a bus and drove them to the outlying communities.
- No one comes.
One school official said her school was a half-mile from apartments where many students live.
No one comes.
People are hungry. We know they are hungry. The food is right there. No one eats.
What we kept coming back to is the question why? There is all this free food out out there, for the taking. There are two possible avenues for a reason. One, it is a physical problem with logistics. Two, it is a psychological problem involving perception.
Let’s start with the physical possibility. Some suggested it is because the students are left at home, parents go to work, and the children are told to not leave the house. A second physical problem is transportation to the school. a third thing that people suggested was that people didn’t know about it and therefore we need to do a better job of getting the word out. There might be other logistical problems, but these seem like the biggest.
The second option, the psychological one, is more interesting to me because I think it has more traction. There are at least two of these. First, people have a stigma about eating at the school in the summer. During the school year, all children eat, and no one knows if the kid eating the meal is getting free or reduced (which 50% do) or if the parents just prefer to have the hot lunch option for the student. Anyone eating in the summer would automatically be ‘outed’ as receiving free or reduced. Second, its school. People don’t want to go to school during the summer, even for a meal. Even if they were giving away steak dinners, no one would go to school to eat.
I don’t know if we can crack this nut. It is probably beyond our pay grade, if you know what I mean. We are working with volunteer organizations, churches, food-banks, and the public education system. There are multiple layers of bureaucracy to deal with. I suspect we are stuck with the status quo for at least the foreseeable future. This reality breaks my heart. The idea that there are children who are hungry just because the calendar says it is July troubles me.
There is really only one real solution here. That solution is year-round school. It makes the most logical sense to solve the food shortage. I am in favor of year-around school for academic reasons as well, but this is the reason that might eventually get people thinking.
I’d be interested to hear your opinion, so I have turned comments “On” for this particular post.
4 responses to “Hungry Children”
I am also in favor of year round school, perhaps broken into three or four segments with a week or two off in between them just to rest. The year round school would do something at least to solve the problem. But longer range solution to the spiritual problem behind it is more elusive. It is a spiritual problem that there is a stigma against the poor. It is something that we are taught, that it is pathetic and despicable to receive “charity”. And yet part of the gospel is that our very lives are founded on the charity of God. It follows that if we despise those who need charity then we will learn to despise genuine faith or we will distort faith into a works righteousness. The stigma against the poor is a subtle attack on the foundations of Christian faith. And an effective one.
But if it is something we have been taught, it is something that we can unlearn. Preaching will no doubt be one of the tools in unlearning it.
thanks Carroll for reading and replying. I think you’re onto something there. We have talked a great deal in our little group about the stigma, but it is bigger than just the stigma of asking for help–it is our culture that glamorizes materialism and teaches that there is a shame in not being wealthy. We’ve done this to ourselves.
Odessa has year round school at one elementary campus. It works well. Marble Falls might have a problem with paying for it.
Another reason why they don’t even come to the Helping Center now is because they are afraid of ICE and being detained.
yes–you are correct Marianne in identifying ICE as a potential problem. As to Marble Falls paying for it–I think they can pay for anything they want to.