batkid

An estimated 10,000 people showed up to support Batkid

Before all the internet starts sending in comments in ALL CAPS, I am glad people care about Batkid. This blog post is not an OR statement, it’s an AND statement.

We all love the idea behind the Make-A-Wish Foundation, especially around the holidays. They hear from children suffering incurable diseases and move mountains to make their dreams come true. That might be as simple as a trip to Disney, or the elaborate Batkid scenario we all saw recently in San Francisco. Some 10,000 people turned out in support.

But now let’s look at some other kids in our country. Child hunger in our America looks like this:

– Congress just cut food stamps (called SNAP now– supplemental nutritional assistance program). SNAP benefits will average less than $1.40 per person per meal in 2014. That’s a hard, hard thing to do to a kid.

– 16.2 million children live in households that lack the means to get enough nutritious food on a regular basis. As a result, they struggle with hunger at some time during the year. About one in five kids in the U.S. need some kind of food assistance; in many poorer areas, kids get two meals a day at school for free and are glad to have them because there may not be much of a third one waiting at home.

– Food insecurity, the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe food, exists in 17.2 million households in America, 3.9 million of them with children.

– Rates of food insecurity are substantially higher than the national average among households with incomes near or below the federal poverty line, among households with children headed by single parents (35.1% of female-headed households with children are food-insecure) and among Black and Hispanic households.

If you want to drop off some food items at some donation site, that’s never a bad thing. But a comprehensive problem needs a comprehensive solution, and that is in large part why we have a government, ensuring the common good and all like it says in those old papers that created the United States. Individual efforts and charity can help, but when we needed a proper interstate highway system people weren’t told to all go out and build a half mile of road each in front of their house.

I know the arguments, people should work for a living, them kids’ parents if theys even got two of ‘em is lazy, meebe takin’ the drugs like I seen on the teevee, this ain’t no socialist country, stop a’wastin’ my tax dollars givin’ things away, ain’t no bizness o’ the damn guvernment.

Right. Right? In a country that has so much, albeit so unequally distributed, we should not have to think in terms of paying for Batkid, or paying for other kids who are hungry. And if those hungry kids could contact Make-A-Wish, most of them would ask for something to eat, not for a trip to Disney or a day-long superhero fantasy.

We can afford to feed them all. We just don’t want to.

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Peter Van Buren blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during Iraqi reconstruction in his first book, We Meant Well, and writes about current events at his blog. Van Buren’s next book, Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99Percentwill be available April 2014 from Luminis Books.

Photo by Dave Schumacher under Creative Commons license