Monday, May 19, 2014

America's Children Are Starving

Amanda and her son, Dominic
Last week, Amanda Keown received a call from her son, Dominic Gant, at school saying he couldn't receive lunch because of an "outstanding balance" ($4.95) owed on his lunch account. Dominic offered to pay down his balance with the $2 he had, which would have brought his balance to $2.95, but that was not enough for the school. Not only was Dominic denied lunch, the school publicly posted his name, and the names of other students with outstanding balances, in the cafeteria for all to see. Amanda left work, went up to the school and paid off her sons balance, as well as the rest of the students with "outstanding balances". 
Amanda's receipt for paying off student's balances
While this is most certainly a commendable deed, there's a much larger issue here, and I'd like to use this as a teachable moment on the issues of food justice, food insecurity and food waste. We need to realize how REAL food insecurity is in America.

Food insecurity - 1 in 5 american children suffer from hunger
Food insecure households are defined as, 'households where the members are unable to consistently access the adequate amount of nutritious food necessary for a healthy life'. In 2012, 49 million people in the U.S. lived in households struggling to find enough food to eat, nearly 16 million in those households were children. In Los Angeles alone, there are 643,640 children living in food insecure households. Children are less likely to have access to sufficient food than adults are because they don't have the same access to money as we do, this makes school lunches so important, because they are a primary source of food for MANY children in America. So when children go to school expecting to eat and are denied lunch, that could mean going without food for an entire day. No child should go without food at school, EVER. 

Food waste
Not only did they not allow Dominic to eat, they THREW HIS FOOD AWAY. This is not the 1st time that a school has denied a child lunch and/or thrown the lunch away. In April, a middle school in Massachusetts refused to feed & threw away the lunches of 25 students who missed payments. A survey of Minnesota public schools in February found that 94% of districts in 2013 deprived kids of food in some way for not having enough money.

Food Justice and America's unrealistic educational expectations
We can't expect our nations kids to perform well in schools when they're being denied the only source of nutrition they receive throughout the day. Hunger has REAL implications. Consider how difficult it is for us, as adults, to concentrate when we're hungry, now imagine how that feeling is magnified for a child that's hungry in school. How can our kids be great when our school systems say a measly $4.95 "outstanding" food balance means more to them than the sound of hunger echoing in their students bellies. Don't get me wrong, the school lunches are not the greatest (that is a topic for another day), but when it's your ONLY source of food or nutrition, it's a necessity!

Food justice matters, it is a smaller part of the larger social justice movement.

(Check out Feeding America's Child Food Insecurity Report from 2012)

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