By Miriam Mondlin
Note: My article, written and published in 2003, tells of millions of children that were not getting enough to eat—and it is a fact that now, in 2015, the number of malnourished children is staggeringly higher! Statistics on Food Insecurity are not kept up to date. In 2003, “The working poor,” written of in this article, had not yet come to the Fight for $15 and a Union–that has happened in 2015! And it’s a beautiful thing that is growing. In what I wrote of some years ago, there is the answer to what’s happening now.
In this, the richest country in the world, increasing numbers of children do not have enough to eat. Every one of the more than 13 million children that the USDA figures tell of—and we can be sure there are many more who don’t get counted—is as real as you or I am.
This is told of in many newspaper articles. In the New York Daily News, for example, under the title, “Hunger Has Younger Face,” we are told that “Children are now swelling the ranks of the city’s hungry…” A social worker tells this chilling fact: “Mothers tell me, ‘Two days a week, I have to give my son sugar with water to quench his hunger.’”
And hunger also afflicts children supposedly above the poverty line. In The Christian Science Monitor, Lisa Suhay has an article titled “Being one of them’—the working poor.” In it, she writes: “Last fall, I was given that name by a helper lady at a charity program, ‘Don’t feel so bad dear. You’re one of that new group they call the working poor. [Families] who have education, a home, two working parents, but still can’t make ends meet.’”
Ms. Suhay represents many distraught parents who once saw themselves as “middle class”, suddenly forced to go to food banks to feed their children. The government calls this situation, now so widespread, “food insecurity.” It is criminal that any child in America should be insecure about having enough to eat and it should not be tolerated!
Eli Siegel, the great historian who founded the education Aesthetic Realism, has explained the cause of injustice, including why hunger has persisted even as there is enough food for everyone: it is contempt, which he defined as “the addition to self through the lessening of something else.”
Contempt is the basis of our economy because the bottom line is: how much profit can be made for a few owners and stockholders and how little can be paid to the people who do the work. I saw first hand Mr. Siegel’s passion about justice. He stated in 1970,
“While any child needs something he hasn’t got, the profit system is a failure.” That failure is more apparent now.
We live in a blessed land where wheat, barley, beans, vegetables and so much more grow abundantly. There has always been a glaring disparity between the amount of food our country can produce and the number of children who get it. I never went hungry, but like millions of Americans during the Great Depression, my family could barely scrape together enough money to buy one meal at a time. My widowed mother found it too painful to ask our neighbor if she could borrow some money for food until the Relief check came, and she would send me, a young child, to ask for it. Shamefully, half a century later, millions of children are suffering from lack of food.
In an issue of the international periodical, The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, Chairman of Education, Ellen Reiss explains, with tenderness and the simple truth, what is coming to all children:
“A baby now in Milwaukee wants milk, and there are cows in America that can supply milk, and people and trucks that can have the milk reach her, and therefore the baby should get the milk, just because she is alive. Only when production in America is based on good will, usefulness to people—instead of profits for a few individuals—will “supply and demand” become decent and sane.”
I’ve come to see that good will begins with the honest asking and answering of this question by Eli Siegel, central to how a child or any person needs to be seen: “What does a person deserve by being alive?”
This article was published in 2003, and was also published in The Southwest Digest (Lubbock, TX), The Palladium Times (Oswego, NY) San Antonio Register (San Antonio, TX) and others.