Lake Stevens JournalLake Stevens Journal

Economic downfall affects children too

Published on Wed, Jul 6, 2011 by BY PAM STEVENS | MANAGING EDITOR

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I watched an excerpt from CBS’s 60 Minutes on Sunday, June 26 and was saddened to see the effects that the tanking economy has had on the children in this country.

Many of these kids are losing their homes and having to live with friends or family or even become homeless because their parents have lost their jobs.

The middle class is shrinking and not because we are getting richer.
According to 60 Minutes, “The government considers a family of four to be impoverished if they take in less than $22,000 a year. Based on that standard, and government projections of unemployment, it is estimated the poverty rate for kids in this country will soon hit 25 percent. Those children would be the largest American generation to be raised in hard times since the Great Depression.”

With unemployment over 10 percent here in Snohomish County, it is disconcerting to think of the children who may be without a home or who may even be going to bed hungry each night.

Even here in Lake Stevens we have seen the number of children who qualify for free and reduced school lunches on the rise.

Since 2009 the number of kids who now qualify for these meals has risen over five percent.
According to Lake Stevens School District in May of 2009 27.5 percent of the entire Lake Stevens student body qualified for the free or reduced lunch program.

That number rose to 31.8 percent in 2010 and in 2011 it hit 33.1 percent of the students attending school here in Lake Stevens.

Currently, the federal government requires that a family of four whose annual income is less than $41,348 can qualify for these meals. This is almost double the income level considered living in poverty.

When you compare the less than $22,000 per year income for a family of four that it takes to be considered impoverished against the qualifications for the free and reduced lunch program, there are kids who thankfully are getting fed at least two meals a day when they are in school.

During the 60 Minutes segment they also stated that, “Nationwide, 14 million children were in poverty before the Great Recession. Now, the U.S. Census tells us it’s 16 million—up two million in two years. That is the fastest fall for the middle class since the government started counting 51 years ago.”

These figures are staggering and while parents are doing their best to get back on their feet, children are feeling the effects in ways I never imagined.

One of the girls stated that she felt responsible for her family’s situation. She was worried that having to buy clothes and food for her was making it even harder on her family.

Many of the kids interviewed couldn’t sleep very well because they were suffering from hunger pains—something they never thought would happen to them. Their grades are affected and their self-esteem tends to plummet when kids don’t get enough to eat.

My concern now that it is summer, is what happens to these kids when they don’t have the schools to feed them?
I am grateful that our government is helping feed these children healthy and nutritious meals. My hope is that our government will be able to find a way to create jobs so that their parents can get back to work and children will be able to go to school after sleeping through the night with full stomachs in a home of their own.

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