Fighting Hunger and Poverty Disparities
Elementary school children in southeast Washington, D.C., enjoy their lunch. (Eugene Mebane, Jr.)
By Nina Keehan
Black History Month is a time to celebrate progress and achievement, but it also provides an opportunity to acknowledge that African-Americans continue to suffer disproportionately from hunger and poverty.
The statistics are sobering. Bread’s newest fact sheet, “Hunger and Poverty Among African-American Children,” released today, puts the food insecurity rate of African-American children at about 30 percent, compared to roughly 20 percent for all U.S. households with children. Poverty figures are even worse, with 38.8 percent of African-American children under 18 and 42.7 percent of children under 5 living below the poverty line.
In some states, African-Americans make up only a small percentage of the population, but still have the highest rates of poverty. Take Iowa: although less than 3 percent of the state’s population is black, more than half of those children are living in poverty. That, compared with a poverty rate of 17.3 percent for all children in Iowa, signals a huge disparity.
The problem also exists in states that have large African-American populations. In Mississippi, African-Americans are 37 percent of the population, and the child poverty rate for that group is nearly 50 percent, compared with 31.8 percent for all children in the state.
We must continue to work to help those suffering from hunger and poverty by being aware of these facts and fighting for programs that help reduce the disparities. Federal programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) and WIC have prevented millions of African-American families from falling into poverty. Join Bread for the World in asking the president to set a goal to end hunger. Take part in our Offering of Letters campaign, which urges Congress to protect the programs that help hungry and poor people. Make these actions a part of your Black History Month observance, and continue to fight these disparities every month of the year.
Nina Keehan, a media relations intern at Bread for the World, is a senior magazine journalism and public health dual major at Syracuse University.
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