When Kids Suffer We Are All Responsible

A recent ‘Our View’ segment (Hungry kids a concern for whole community, September 21, 2009) in the Press Gazette focused on trends in free/subsidized lunch, as ‘more than half’ of the children in our public schools now qualify for this program. All true, but the impact of poverty on kids in our area is much deeper and troubling than consistent access to nutritious food.

For example, we now hear that more and more young adults with children are homeless, and the implications for some of these kids are mind-boggling. Some are taken in by seemingly concerned adults and abused in ways that would turn your stomach. Some will spend tonight on a friend’s couch, with no idea where they will be at the same time tomorrow. Some will sleep in a car—perhaps sharing it with siblings—hoping that no one comes along to do them harm. Some of course get involved with drugs, alcohol and other high-risk behaviors to distract themselves from the unpleasant realities before them. Some, if not many, are reluctant to officially report their plight for fear that they will be separated from other family members.

Can you imagine how difficult it would be to even get by in school when faced with these circumstances outside the classroom? Would you be particularly concerned about that test on Friday if tonight there was a decent chance of going hungry, being violated or both?

The segment referenced above also referred to the great people in this community—and we are lucky to have so many—yet the problems get bigger with each passing day and cold weather is right around the corner. Other communities have found at least partial answers. How will we respond?

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