Although child poverty and hunger are more widespread in the U.S. than in any other industrialized nation, the U.S. government does less than any other such country's government to pull its children out of poverty, according to the antihunger lobbying group Bread for the World. "The child poverty rate in the United States is three times the average for other industrial countries," said David Beckmann, president of the grass-roots Christian organization. "In the richest country in the world, it's senseless to have widespread hunger among children these days."
Beckmann spoke at a news conference unveiling Bread for the World's annual report, "What Governments Can Do: Hunger 1997," which maintains that some 841 million people suffer from hunger worldwide. An estimated 12.4 million children under the age of five die annually from malnutrition and preventable diseases, the report states, and an estimated 1.3 billion people live on the equivalent of less than $1 a day.
In the U.S. about 21.5 percent of the children--15.3 million--were poor in 1994 (the most recent figures available when the 129-page report was prepared). On September 26 the Census Bureau released figures for 1995, showing that 20.8 percent of the nation's children were poor--a slight decline, to 14.7 million children. About 13.6 million U.S. children are hungry or at risk of hunger, including about 4 million under the age of 12.
Canada, with a child poverty rate of 13.5 in 1990-91 (the most recent figures available), ranked second to the U.S. in the Bread for the World report. Finland and Sweden had the lowest rates of child poverty, 2.5 percent and 2.7 percent respectively.
"Hunger is a problem which is easy in an industrial democracy to fix," said Larry Brown, director of the Center on Hunger, Poverty and Nutrition Policy at Tufts University. "We have the ability to end hunger with the blink of an eye," he said, adding that hunger--not poverty--could be eliminated in six to eight months" if federal nutrition programs were fully funded and all eligible recipients were reached. …