Fiscal Cliff Talks Leave Out Issue of Poverty

A startling amount of parents aren't able to provide ample food for their children while school is out.

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Small portion of vegetables on a plate close up

Americans have understandably been concerned lately with the safety of our schools. If children at an elementary school in small-town Connecticut are at risk of being shot, no one, it seems, can feel safe.

But there is another kind of security issue affecting many students this time of year, and that is just as critical. Food security—the basic knowledge that someone will have adequate meals to grow and thrive—is imperiled for students who count on their schools to feed them.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]

As the Washington Post reports in a startling piece this morning, hundreds and perhaps thousands of families will struggle to provide food to children during the holiday school break, since there is no recess program to feed kids who qualify for free or subsidized meals at school. At one school, Broad Acres Elementary School in Silver Spring, fully 95 percent of students qualify for free or reduced price lunches. Those families must turn to a patchwork of charities—which themselves are struggling to meet increasing needs—to eat.

The fiscal cliff talks, the debt reduction talks, and the fight over the debt ceiling have left one issue out, and that is poverty. The poor have no political power, and the working poor are so busy trying to keep it together that they couldn't exert pressure on Congress if they wanted to. The minimum wage remains stuck at a non-inflation adjusted $7.75 an hour, which translates into about $15,000 a year. That's easily a low enough salary to make children of minimum-wage workers eligible for reduced cost meals at school. But what happens to the kids when school is out? Nor is there any talk about increasing the minimum wage, which is viewed as antibusiness, something that would force employers to cut workers. But what value is there to a job that can't even give parents the hope of feeding their children over Christmas? Hunger, unfortunately, will not go on holiday for many area schoolchildren.

  • Read Mary Kate Cary: What Government Can and Can't Do About the Newtown Shooting
  • Read Peter Roff: What Democrats Mean When They Talk Gun Control
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