This week at Media Voices, we are focusing on hunger, or food insecurity, in the United States. Coincidentally, the U.S. House of Representatives just passed a budget that is perfectly appalling in its implications for vulnerable children. The Ryan budget takes a giant step toward closing the gap between the United States and the developing world when it comes to child nutrition – and not in a good way. 2012 is the year for revisiting the Farm Bill, an enormous piece of legislation that includes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, popularly known as food stamps. At the current level, most SNAP recipients burn through their food allowance in the first two weeks of the month. See also the Center for Hunger-Free Communities report, The Real Cost of a Healthy Diet. The draconian cuts envisioned in the Ryan budget – $2 trillion dollars cut out of entitlement programs like welfare, SNAP and transportation – make my heart sink.
Julia Perez has a Viewpoint piece on the latest move to counter child labor protections in agriculture, a bill with the Orwellian title Preserving America’s Family Farms Act. The bill has 44 co-sponsors, and all of them need to hear from their constituents on this issue. See also the press release from the Child Labor Coalition on a letter sent to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis signed by 105 groups, including Media Voices, in support of the Hazardous Occupation rules for children under 16 years of age working for hire.
Mariana Chilton (of Witnesses to Hunger, now Center for Hunger-Free Communities) and Jenny Rabinowich have published a paper on the ongoing effects of toxic stress caused by extreme poverty and violent trauma such as rape in childhood on the person’s ability to function well and support her own children in later life. Toxic Stress and Child Hunger Over the Life Course: Three Case Studies makes a persuasive case that breaking through the cycle of poverty requires a broad spectrum of assistance – not just food, but mental health counseling to heal adults scarred by hunger, neglect and abuse.
Also from Witnesses to Hunger, Tianna Gaines has a piece on the importance of general assistance, which functions as an emergency safety net for the very poor, currently under attack in Pennsylvania and nationwide.
We also have a trailer for Finding North, a documentary on hunger in the United States that screened at Sundance. You will find the social action campaign for Finding North here. It can’t hurt. Though really what’s required here is an adjustment of priorities, from paying (adult) farmworkers a living wage to expanding SNAP so that all poor children not only get enough to eat, but get enough healthy food to grow and thrive, which would also do much to grow the economy. Because we really don’t need to sequester more wealth in agribusiness.
Petra Lent McCarron is an experienced television and film producer and editor. She co-produced Stolen Childhoods and Rescuing Emmanuel for Galen Films.