Avibra is dedicated to the overall well-being of our members and our communities. We know that we can always be doing more and working harder to make a real difference in people’s lives. Last month, Social Impact featured gender inequality in the US. This month, the topic is hunger and poverty. We will also be donating to Feeding America, an organization whose mission is to connect people with food and end hunger through a nationwide network of food banks.
Even before the coronavirus hit, millions of Americans struggled with hunger and poverty. With rising unemployment rates and a long recession on the horizon, these problems are likely to get worse before they can get any better. According to the USDA, one in nine households struggles to get enough food to eat. More than 37 million Americans struggle with hunger, and over 11 million of them are children. Additionally, more than 38 million Americans live in poverty as of 2019, generally earning less than $25,750 annually while trying to keep their family afloat.
Our communities can all benefit from us working together to make sure that everyone can be free from a life of hunger and poverty. From local food pantries to voting and beyond, we can all work together to build a better future for everyone.
Poverty & Hunger for American Children
Children are often the hardest hit by both hunger and poverty in the US. There are many problems that follow when a child doesn’t have access to the right kinds of food. Many families have to focus on buying the cheapest food available instead of food that will promote good health. This means that these kids struggle to start life on the right foot and can even have health problems at a young age due to deficits in their nutrition.
A common problem seen in schools across the country is the impact of poor nutrition or a lack of food generally on school performance. Kids who don’t have a healthy breakfast or a school lunch can have a harder time focusing in class or learning the material. These educational issues early on can snowball into serious problems as they struggle to maintain grades. It’s also just plain tough to enjoy school when you’re hungry or are feeling like you’ve been left behind. The good news is that many schools support a free or reduced price school lunch, which can help reduce the number of kids experiencing hunger. However, many families still struggle over breaks from school. Programs like WIC (for women, infants and children) are meant to specifically help get food to kids in the US.
Childhood poverty is clearly heavily detrimental to kids as well. Children living below the poverty line may not have access to medical care and might not have a steady place to call home. Children living in poverty are more likely to develop certain medical conditions, including asthma, anxiety and depression. We know that where people live can impact their health due to factors like poor air quality.
The Families of Black, Indigenous & People of Color Experience More Poverty & Hunger
In the US, 22% of Black households and 18% of Latinx/Hispanic households experience food insecurity. Indigenous communities often face major struggles getting food on their reservations and have some of the highest rates of hunger, and their poverty rate is over twice that of the country as a whole. Every problem described above for children facing poverty and hunger applies to the many BIPOC kids in the US.
Women Facing Poverty & Hunger
Women are more likely to experience both hunger and poverty compared to men in the US. Women make up more than 75% of single parent households, which puts them at higher risk for food insecurity. As we discussed in our Social Impact article on gender discrimination, women in the US also earn significantly less than their male counterparts, and that goes doubly so for non-white women. In families where women stay home to help raise children, the women are often penalized when trying to reenter the workforce. This can be particularly difficult if they’re attempting to do so as a newly single parent, forcing them to take low wage hourly jobs. Up to 35% of single mothers in the US raise their families in poverty.
These discrepancies between genders persists through the years, and older women are more likely to be living in poverty than older men. The poverty gap narrows a bit in mid-life, and then widens to roughly double the rates for men by the time they reach 75.
What We Can Do
The good news about hunger and poverty is that there are so many opportunities for us to help. You can participate in direct action to address hunger in your community by donating to and volunteering at your local food bank. Food banks often appreciate monetary donations because they’re able to buy food in bulk for far less than a regular consumer can. You can participate in food sorting events or help at the “store” that food pantries set up in neighborhoods. Churches often have weekly meals set up where you can volunteer to make or serve meals to people in the community as well.
Check to make sure your child’s school has good options for free and reduced lunch for all students, and that they have policies in place to continue providing food regardless of payment. Since many children rely on school food for their nutritional needs, it’s important to have healthy meals provided as well. Make sure that the school prioritizes healthy, well-balanced and nutritionally dense foods.
Those struggling with poverty are often experiencing a lack of basic necessities, like shelter. In communities with expensive or insufficient housing, this often means that they’re “priced out” of affordable apartments or similar living arrangements. Go to your community meetings and let those in charge know that you think affordable housing is important for a thriving community. Each town will have different laws and regulations in place, and you’ll have to be willing to do a bit of research and actually show up. Otherwise, it’s common to have only the naysayers willing to attend these local meetings. Make your voice heard to help those who need it most.