Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Horrific Description of Hunger and Malnutrition and Poverty in a Third World Country

No Wait, The Country is .   .   .   .

A News Report One Wishes Were Made Up

[Editor's note:  Frequently news reporters embellish or exaggerate the details in their stories to make a stronger point or make the story more attractive and interesting.  This is a deplorable practice, but in this case one truly hopes that is the case with respect to the Washington Post story this post is based on.  If that story is factual it is a terrible tragedy.]

Despite its attempts to convert itself into a newspaper that caters and fawns to the Conservative elite, every now and then the Washington Post comes up with real journalism.  Here is a story on poverty and desperation among children in one of the poorer regions of the world.

Kids make their way off the bus after eating their lunch on the Lunch Express bus.
Kids make their way off the bus after eating their lunch on the Lunch Express bus. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

It was the first day of summer in a place where summers had become hazardous to a child’s health, so the school bus rolled out of the parking lot on its newest emergency route. It passed by the church steeples of downtown and curved into the blue hills of Appalachia. The highway became two lanes. The two lanes turned to red dirt and gravel. On the dashboard of the bus, the driver had posted an aphorism. “Hunger is hidden,” it read, and this bus had been dispatched to find it.

The bus was empty except for a box of plastic silverware and three oversize coolers that sat on green vinyl seats. Inside each cooler were 25 sack lunches, and inside each sack was what the federal government had selected on this day as the antidote to a growing epidemic of childhood hunger — 2 ounces of celery sticks, 4 ounces of canned oranges, chocolate milk and a bologna sandwich, each meal bought with $3.47 in taxpayer money.

On the outside of the bus, the familiar yellow-and-black design had been modified with the bold lettering of the U.S. economy in 2013: “Kids Eat FREE!”

Yes, our Appalachia, in this case the area outside of Greeneville, Tennessee.  The problem, this.

Here, in the rural hills of Tennessee, is the latest fallout of a recession that officially ended in 2009 but remains without end for so many. More than 1 in 4 children now depend on government food assistance, a record level of need that has increased the federal budget and changed the nature of childhood for the nation’s poor.

And for those who say we are already doing enough, there is this.

First, schools became the country’s biggest soup kitchens, as free and reduced-price lunch programs expanded to include free breakfast, then free snacks and then free backpacks of canned goods sent home for weekends. Now those programs are extending into summer, even though classes stop, in order for children to have a dependable source of food. Some elementary school buildings stay open year-round so cafeterias can serve low-income students. High schools begin summer programs earlier to offer free breakfast.

So now in the United States in order to feed people food banks have to buy old school buses, load them up with lunches and take them to the hungry children.

. . . earlier this year, a food bank in Tennessee came up with a plan to reverse the model. Instead of relying on children to find their own transportation to summer meal sites, it would bring food to children. The food bank bought four used school buses for $4,000 each and designed routes that snake through some of the most destitute land in the country, where poverty rates have almost doubled since 2009 and two-thirds of children qualify for free meals.

And for those politicians that think we spend too much in this area, there is this message.

A 5-year-old girl saw the dust trail of the bus and pedaled toward it on a red tricycle. Three teenage boys came barefoot in swimsuits. A young mother walked over from her trailer with an infant daughter in one arm and a lit cigarette in the other. “Any chance there will be leftover food for adults?” she asked.

It was almost 1 p.m. For some, this would be the first meal of the day. For others, the last.

And yes, one of the leading opponents of food aid is a Congressman from Tennessee, whose family farm gets tens of thousands of dollars in farm support payments. 

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