As a parent I can only imagine the heartbreak of not being able to feed my family well. Yet every day in Maine families struggle to provide the basics, often in spite of parents working multiple jobs trying to make ends meet. We all lose when children start life with the deck stacked against them.
According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s latest “Kids Count” report, the number of children in Maine living in poverty has increased since the last count in 2008. Fully 25 percent of Maine’s kids live in poverty, with 15 percent of households experiencing food insecurity, meaning that they have limited or uncertain access to adequate food. Food insecurity is especially devastating for children, having a lasting negative impact on cognitive development.
Since 1966, child nutrition programs such as the school breakfast and lunch programs and Women, Infants and Children, better known as WIC, have been an essential investment in this nation’s children. They help ensure that low-income children and pregnant or nursing women have access to nutritious food. The WIC program saves $4.21 in Medicaid expenses for every $1 spent on pregnant women.
Congress must act by Sept. 30 to keep these programs funded. Support for these program would seem like a “no-brainer,” yet in this era of blind faith in austerity budgets as the path to prosperity, nothing seems safe from the chopping block. Eliminating these programs would be a loss for all of us, not just those directly affected.
Mary Ann Larson