Four million children go to bed hungry, skip meals or eat small portions because their parents run out of money and food stamps to buy groceries, a liberal advocacy group asserted Wednesday.
One Republican used the findings to suggest federal nutrition programs are failing and must be handed over to the states. A conservative welfare expert said any hunger among low-income families appears to be due to poor family budgeting and food choices.
The study, released by the Food Research and Action Center, estimates that 4 million low-income children under the age of 12 are not getting enough to eat and are hungry at least part of the time. Another 9.6 million children are at risk of hunger.
The study, based on interviews with 5,023 low-income households with children, defines hunger as a lack of food due to limited resources.
Although many poor families work or receive food stamps and other nutrition assistance, such as school lunches, the study said these programs do not fully compensate for their needs.
Study director Cheryl A. Wehler said the research documents what “people at the front lines have been saying for years - hunger is a problem among this nation’s lowincome families.”
Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, R-Calif., chairman of a House subcommittee that oversees childhood nutrition programs, used the findings to make the case that if nearly one-third of all American children are indeed hungry or at risk of hunger, then federal nutrition programs “have failed our children miserably and must be replaced with more local authority and accountability.”
Robert Rector, a welfare expert with the conservative Heritage Foundation, said the problem seems to be due to poor food choices and budgeting.
“The report shows that in fact hungry households spend almost exactly the same amount of money on food, per person, as do nonhungry households,” Rector said.