According to a recent article by Tana Ganeva in AlterNet (“5 Worst States to be a Poor Kid”), “Last year, America placed next to last in a ranking of child well-being in 35 developed countries, barely beating out Romania.” This is a shocking statement — or perhaps not. It’s no secret that one in five American children lives in “relative” poverty, but what is striking is that “close to half of poverty-stricken kids live in extreme poverty, which means their families earn less than half the poverty level of $11,746 per year for a family of four.”
Despite the efforts of many terrific organizations hell bent on pulling people out of poverty — like DC-based Share Our Strength whose mission is to end childhood hunger, and the many charities in the Catalogue for Philanthropy — there has been, according to Ganeva, a 23 percent rise in child hunger. In some parts of the country, 1 child out 4 is poor. There is nothing acceptable about a 25 percent poverty rate for children. While children in poverty do benefit from safety net programs, like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP/food stamps, as it is commonly known), and advocates such as D.C. Hunger Solutions (which works closely with the city government to make sure food policies are effective and ensures that those who serve needy families can connect with existing nutrition programs), there is no question that as individuals we must do more to aid our neighbors in need.
Nearly two hundred Catalogue charities are dedicated to supporting Human Services. Catalogue charities such as D.C. Hunger Solutions, Arlington Food Assistance Center, Food for Others, Manna Food Center and Our Daily Bread all have programs designed to help families in poverty, and each has very tangible ways for the community to help: at Arlington Food Assistance Center, $100 will supply 1 week’s food for 10 families, and at Manna Food Center, the same amount supplies Smart Sacks (backpacks full of kid-friendly food) for 25 school kids. Volunteers for Our Daily Bread can organize a drive to collect grocery cards, while at Food for Others, they can help the warehouse staff record incoming and outgoing food, pack emergency food and USDA boxes and sort and shelve products.
While it isn’t December, and the “giving season” is months away, the truth is that hunger knows no season. Yes, the number of children in poverty is staggering, and on some levels, even intimidating, but by taking simple steps and helping our neighbors in need throughout the year, we can make a real difference in ending child hunger in Greater Washington. What will you do today?