Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Feeding the Hungry - a Job for the Well-Fed

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Feeding the Hungry - a Job for the Well-Fed

Article excerpt

Every Spring on a mid-May Saturday, letter carriers across the country adopt an unofficial motto for the day: "The mail - and the food - must get through."

The occasion is an annual drive, now in its 10th year, called "Stamp Out Hunger." As carriers in more than 10,000 communities deliver mail, they also collect nonperishable food - canned soup, juice, pasta, cereal, rice. Donations go to local food pantries to feed people in need.

Hunger is silent and often invisible. It is local as well as global. And it stalks all age groups, from the youngest to the oldest.

Hunger is also on the rise. An estimated 33 million Americans, 13 million of them children, are hungry or at risk of hunger, according to Second Harvest, the nation's largest food bank.

No wonder hunger is making news this month. In addition to the Postal Service's food drive last Saturday, the Senate passed a bill last week restoring the right of legal immigrants to receive food stamps.

By far the saddest hunger-related headlines this month involve a study on the health of low-income children, released last week by Boston University. It shows that among infants and toddlers brought to a Boston hospital and a Minneapolis clinic for medical care, there has been a 45 percent increase from 1999 to 2001 in those who are hungry or malnourished and underweight.

Deborah Frank, a pediatrician who headed the study at Boston University, attributes the increase to three factors: unemployment, a recession, and declining welfare benefits. She also notes that fewer people are receiving unemployment benefits. "Many of the jobs that former welfare recipients found during the economic boom were so part-time that they don't qualify for unemployment benefits," she says.

She warns that proposed changes in welfare reform, requiring more mothers to work 40 hours a week, could increase the problem.

"Policymakers are obviously not taking into consideration the needs of infants and toddlers," Dr. …

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