More Hungry Children, Fewer Free Meals

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | June 29, 2010 1:27 pm

Last week, I began writing about the relationship between energy and food – a topic that I intend to explore in detail over the coming months. That post dealt with limited micronutrients in other parts of the world, but just because they are more readily available here in the US does not mean that our children are getting what they need.

800px-School_lunchToday the Food Research and Action Center–an anti-hunger group that tracks summer meal programs–released a report called Hunger Doesn’t Take A Vacation (pdf) which looks at national trends. Using data from the Agriculture Department and state nutrition officials, they show that regional governments around the country are not adequately funded to feed low-income kids during the summer. The states most in trouble are California, Louisiana, South Carolina, Kentucky, Hawaii and Utah.

Consider: In 2009, 73,000 fewer children participated in summer meal programs than in 2008–even though the number of those in need skyrocketed due to our troubled economy. Among the students who ate free or reduced-cost lunches during the regular school term, just 16 percent were fed adequately when out of school. Back in 2001, that figure was 21 percent.

In other words, a lot more children in the United States will be going hungry this summer, which can impact development, concentration, health, and more. Surely we can do better.

Download the full report here.


Comments (7)

  1. ThomasL

    Unfortunately this will likely get much worse over the next few years Sheril. As learned long ago during my time working in Juvenile Probation, it is much easier to talk about the importance of our children than it is to provide the resources to meaningfully do something…

  2. cgray

    I thought the Obamamessiah was going to alleviate all suffering in America. You’re not telling me Democrats are a bunch of filthy liars, are you?

  3. Billingham

    If you can find a Democrat who argued that Obama would solve all of America’s suffering in his first two years in office, feel free to post a link. Otherwise, stop attacking strawmen.

  4. David

    If you read the article carefully, they actually admit that the children are not going hungry, they are getting fat from eating poor nutritional quality food. That they throw the “Hunger” in there on the title to tug the heart strings is fairly ridiculous.

    I taught elementary school in one of the poorest counties in the entire country for ten years. The kids at lunch would throw the food from their plate straight into the garbage and pull out the junk food every time. Apples and banana growers don’t spend as much on advertising as Frito-lay and Coca Cola. It doesn’t matter how much money you throw at bringing quality food to them when the companies selling the junk food outspend even the government convincing the kids to eat crap. It wouldn’t matter if you went down the street delivering the food door to door. The kids will run straight to the junk food every time. They have been well conditioned.

    There is a serious problem that needs to be addressed but these food programs have failed and will continue to fail. Just pouring more money at them to continue their failure is not the solution.

  5. GM

    I don’t want to be obnoxious, but if you are going to be examining the relationship between food and energy, then how does this article fit in that scheme?

  6. Neuro-conservative

    @GM — It fits because Sheril’s preferred energy policies, in which ethanol and biofuels play an important role, necessarily drive up food prices, thereby making nutritious food even more expensive for the poor. Sheril then has the opportunity to morally preen about both the environment AND food for the poor.

  7. ThomasL

    It isn’t how much we spend, to that I agree. It is getting it to where it is really needed, and spent on things that actually mater instead of what makes us all feel good.


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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry.Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 info@hachettespeakersbureau.comFor more information, visit her website or email Sheril at


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