The story of hunger in Vermont is told through vignettes: The father who forgoes food so his children have more to eat; the mother who cuts the milk with water to make it last longer; the child who is eligible for school food programs, but goes hungry rather than stand out as “poor” among the lunchtime crowd of peers.
The story of hunger in Vermont is told through statistics: About 23,000 Vermont households are hungry, according to the Campaign to End Childhood Hunger. That figure includes 21,000 children.
The number of Vermonters going hungry essentially doubled between 1999 and 2001, marking the sharpest increase in the nation.
Children are especially vulnerable. About 11 percent of Washington County children under the age of five live in families with an income below the poverty level; just under 2,000 households receive food stamps – less than half those experts believe are eligible for the nutritional help.
Hungry children begin to appear thin. Eventually their growth and development is slowed. They might experience health problems, cognitive dysfunction, and increased aggression.
The federal government officially designates these Vermonters as experiencing “food insecurity with hunger.” Call it what you want, it essentially means that some of our neighbors are in need of a helping hand to keep food on the table and their children fed.
The reasons for hunger are fairly well known. According to the Campaign to End Childhood Hunger, “poverty is the strongest predictor of hunger … lack of affordable housing, low wages, high unemployment, a decrease in the number of local, affordable grocery stores, and lack of public transportation” are contributing factors.
Unfortunately, the problem of hunger and poverty extends beyond Vermont to the entire world. Similarly, the descriptions of hungry children suffering in Vermont apply to the children suffering throughout the world. I hope that not only Vermont, but also the entire world comes together to put an end to the terrible plagues of hunger and poverty, and provide equal opportunity to every person in the world, especially children.