Since the moment schools started to close in March, people have been worried about how the coronavirus pandemic will affect low-income children. First, there was the fact that they wouldn’t have easy access to free breakfast and lunch at school. Then as businesses laid off or furloughed workers, their parents began to lose income at an alarming rate. This week, a survey has found that about one in five households with children 12 and under is experiencing food insecurity.
Before you let that news weight you down entirely, let us reassure you that there is something you can do about it.
But first, the bad news. Lauren Bauer, a fellow at the nonprofit Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project, published findings based on two surveys taken at the end of April. If respondents said that, “The food we bought just didn’t last and we didn’t have enough money to get more,” or, “The children in my household were not eating enough because we just couldn’t afford enough food,” some or all of the time, they counted as food insecure.
“In the Survey of Mothers with Young Children, 17.4 percent of mothers with children ages 12 and under reported that since the pandemic started, ‘the children in my household were not eating enough because we just couldn’t afford enough food,” Bauer reported. That’s compared to 3.1 percent of respondents in a 2018 survey, and 5.7 percent in a survey during the Great Recession.
17.4% of mothers with children 12 and under reported that since the coronavirus pandemic started, “The children in my household were not eating enough because we just couldn’t afford enough food.”
That’s a 460% increase from the same question in the 2018 official data.
— Lauren Bauer (@laurenlbauer) May 6, 2020
What’s worse, the COVID Impact Survey found that 34.5 percent of households with a child 18 and under were food insecure as of the end of last month. Bauer also mentioned that many respondents might be underreporting their food insecurity.
“This is alarming,” she told the New York Times. “These are households cutting back on portion sizes, having kids skip meals. The numbers are much higher than I expected.”
How can we help?
Bauer’s recommendation is for the federal government to increase the maximum amount of aid the Supplemental Nutritional Aid Program distributes to families by 15 percent, in addition to other measures to expand emergency SNAP and EBT funds during the pandemic through the summer. Republicans have refused to do this so far, citing concerns that any increases would wind up being permanent instead of just tied to this emergency. So…
Step 2: If you’ve got even a little extra cash, it’s time to hand it over. Hungry children can’t wait for politicians right now. Here are a few ways to give:
Feeding America is a national organization that distributes funds to local food banks, so you can make your donations go far and wide.
Local businesses are using GoFundMe to raise money directly. If you give to a business that is trying to pay its employees, that can help feed their kids and keep their parents employed when social distancing rules ease. The only catch here is that your donations may not be tax deductible. (If you really think now is the time to worry about that?)
Check GoFundMe for other local fundraisers. Not everyone has time or access to nonprofits at the moment. For instance, I just gave to the PTA of a local elementary school that’s helping out its undocumented immigrant families.
Speaking of undocumented immigrants and others being hit hard by the pandemic and not necessarily receiving unemployment payments or stimulus checks, you can give to organizations helping them directly. The National Domestic Workers Alliance, for example, has a Coronavirus Care Fund.
Also, check in on those nannies, babysitters, housecleaners, handymen, landscapers, dog-walkers and other people you pay off the books. They may not feel comfortable asking you, but they may respond to a friendly offer of help.
Your support of these celeb-designed spatulas (of all things!) will help fight childhood hunger.