CATHY GRACE: Wildmon misses facts about childhood nutrition in U.S.

By CATHY GRACE

Tim Wildmon does have a way of omitting facts in his columns when trying to throw rocks at what he considers government “give away” programs. I usually attribute it to inflammatory rhetoric based on fiction, but the column on Oct. 17, “Federal welfare programs seen as buying votes,” had too many false suppositions to ignore. For the record:
n According to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau in September, 15.5 million children in America – more than one in every five children – lived in poverty in 2009. This is an almost 10 percent increase over 2008. Poverty is defined as a family of four having an annual income of $21, 947.
n Of these children, almost half – 6.9 million – lived in extreme poverty, defined as an annual income of less than half of poverty level ($10,974 for a family of four). 2.4 million children living in extreme poverty in 2009 were under the age of five.
n The majority of poor children – 9.2 million – lived in single parent families, BUT nearly 9 percent more married couple families were poor in 2009 than in 2008, AND 4.4 percent of poor families in 2009 had one or more working family members working.
n According to the USDA, an estimated 16 million children in America lived in food-insecure (low food security and very low food security) households in 2008.
n The top five states with the highest rate of food-insecure children under 18 are Arkansas, Texas, Arizona, Missouri and Mississippi, along with the District of Columbia.
More facts can be provided by going on-line to Feeding America or the U.S. Census Bureau if the reader is interested. I realize those pesky little facts can muck up the grand stereotypical picture Mr. Wildmon is trying to paint for the reader, but facts are facts. Poverty is not restricted to a single mom who supposedly is having babies for the bucks – there are no bucks in having babies, and if the truth be known, it was never the cottage industry that is was made out to be in “the old days.”
As Mr. Wildmon puts it using a fear tactic from the past, ” … in the next 10 years or so we could have to decide between having an army to protect us or 43 million getting food stamps.” Apparently he has not heard of Mission Readiness, a group of retired offices of all branches of the armed services who have come together with a very powerful message – if we don’t support all of our children by offering accessible high quality early care and education programs across the country (which includes good nutrition), we won’t have an army to protect us in the future, because collectively as a country we won’t have the brain power to man one. So maybe we won’t have to choose, because we aren’t choosing now to get over this old worn-out government-entitlement-is-bad baloney.
Affluent people qualifying for the Bush tax cuts aren’t crying over the government entitling them to go without paying taxes on income, but then we don’t have stories about Americans not paying their part except if they are poor.
Cathy Grace, Ed.D., is Director of the Early Childhood Institute at Mississippi State University, Professor Emeritus in the College of Education and Director of Early Childhood Policy at the Children’s Defense Fund in Washington, D.C. Contact her at cgrace@colled.msstate.edu, or P.O. Box 6013, Mississippi State, MS 39762.