Florida Children Coining Hungry While Lawmakers Fail To Act

Despite record unemployment rates, an economy that is not only healthy but also robust there is still a glaring problem in the Sunshine State and around the entire country. The children, living in poor areas both rural as well in the big cities are woefully lacking in access to food to make up three meals a day.

This past week a Farm Bill was passed without a resolution on the point of food for poor families. Conservative  Republicans proposed changes to the food stamps program formally called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

The House bill would expand the number of non-disabled individuals subject to SNAP work requirements by raising the top age to 59 from 49 and including more people caring for school-age children. It would also put new limits on state governors’ ability to waive work requirements in economically depressed areas.

The Senate bill includes no major changes to the SNAP program, but does contains minor tweaks such as extending job training pilot programs created by the last farm bill and establishing a new pilot related to income verification.
The devil is in the details when it comes to how the two chambers square their massive differences. Meanwhile, children are caught in the middle battle on Capitol Hill.

Looking locally first it should of note that an estimated 1.1 million kids in Florida whose families aren’t sure how or if they’ll be able to buy food, is number that should get most people’s attention, as well as lawmakers.

According to a recent report in The Florida Times Union, the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count Data Book ranked Florida 34th overall for its measures of childhood well-being among the 50 states.

“The big thing, in my mind, is the federal government uses (Census counts) to determine how much money goes to states for Medicaid, for Head Start, for SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), educational programs like Title I schools; there are childcare funds and funds for foster care,” Norín Dollard, director of Florida Kids Count at the University of South Florida, said. “The kiddos that are hardest to find are the ones that stand to benefit the most from being counted.”

A recent Brookings Institute study showed that the share of households experiencing what is called food insecurity is continuing to recover from its recession-era peak of 14.9 percent, and in 2016 fell to 12.3 percent. That is just above its pre-recession level of 11.1 percent.

However, again according to the Brookings, report, 43 percent of SNAP beneficiaries are households with children. Children are exposed to higher rates of food insecurity than the population overall. During the summer, school-age children lose access to school-provided breakfast and lunch and SNAP benefits do not adjust to account for this.

At the national level, the share of food-insecure households with children is 16.5 percent—still above the 2007 pre-recession level of 15.8 percent but well below the Great Recession peak of 21.3 in 2009. 12.9 million children lived in food-insecure households in 2016.

So, how do Florida and the rest of the United States solve this problem? At the moment there does not seem to be a fix but lawmakers in the state of Florida and in Washington need to come up with a plan because kids are still not getting the food they need to function properly.

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Jim Williams is the Washington Bureau Chief, Digital Director as well as the Director of Special Projects for Genesis Communications. He is starting his third year as part of the team. This is Williams 40th year in the media business, and in that time he has served in a number of capacities. He is a seven time Emmy Award winning television producer, director, writer and executive. He has developed four regional sports networks, directed over 2,000 live sporting events including basketball, football, baseball hockey, soccer and even polo to name a few sports. Major events include three Olympic Games, two World Cups, two World Series, six NBA Playoffs, four Stanley Cup Playoffs, four NCAA Men’s National Basketball Championship Tournaments (March Madness), two Super Bowl and over a dozen college bowl games. On the entertainment side Williams was involved s and directed over 500 concerts for Showtime, Pay Per View and MTV Networks.