Moral Monday: The Birthday Party
Family members decided to do something different for the child’s birthday this year. Instead of having a party for a few children, they decided to have a birthday party for all 26 children in the first grade classroom. The family purchased: a meat and cheese platter, a fruit platter, a veggie platter, wholesome buns and crackers. Each of the children in the classroom and the teacher received a gift. The mom and child read Happy Birthday to You by Dr. Seuss to the class.
The children in the classroom come from diverse backgrounds. This school district has a high poverty rate: 73% of the children are eligible for free and reduced lunch. While the children waited to be served, they quietly visited with each other and with the adults. It was so much fun to hear the short vignettes from the children about their interests and their families.
As we saw the children’s plates overflowing with meat, cheese, veggies, fruit, buns and crackers, we realized these children are hungry. Some children wanted to go for seconds; but it was near the end of the day, and they needed to get ready to go home.
The plan was to send the remainder of the food home with each child. This could not be done because of the “No food on the bus policy.” The children wanted to take the crackers home. They were allowed to do this and were told to keep the crackers in their bag until they got home.
The leftovers were put into the school’s refrigerator to be shared the next day during snack time.
What we learned that day is another life lesson for us. Children in this country are hungry! This breaks my heart.
Here are some startling statistics:
** 16 million children face food insecurity–hungry, growling tummies–in the US. 10 million children live in deep poverty.
**Deep cuts to the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) for FY 2014, November 2013 to September 2014, mean:
1. 21 fewer meals per month for a family of four
2. $36 a month less for a family of four
3. SNAP benefits will average less than $1.40 per person per meal
4. Wisconsin will receive $89 million less for SNAP recipients. This will affect 861,000 people which is 15% of the state’s population.
5.. Minnesota will receive $55 million less. This will affect 556,000 people which is 10% of the state’s population.
6. Children’s HealthWatch which collects data on children up to the age of four from a network of doctors and public health researchers found 29% of the households faced hunger in 2013 up from 25% in 2012.
Congressman Paul Ryan’s 2014 budget which passed in the House of Representatives calls for more drastic cuts to SNAP: $135 billion to $150 billion over the next ten years. Only 12 Republican Congressmen voted against the bill. Five of the Congressmen from Wisconsin, all Republicans, voted yes. The other four who are Democrats voted no.
“Mariana Chilton, a public health professor at Drexel University School of Public Health and the director of the schools Center for Hunger-Free Communities states: ‘This is a massive public health crisis, and it is a silent crisis.’”
Not only is this a health crisis, this is a moral crisis.