Reflections on work with low-income children
November 11, 2010
Feeding America is working hard to ensure that Congress passes the Child Nutrition Bill during the Lame Duck session. To garner public support for the passage of the bill, we are featuring a series of guest posts from our governement relations team throughout the week.
My name is Amy Satoh and I am the research intern at Feeding America. I have learned so much from the staff and network members during my first three months here and I am thrilled to be a part of an organization that does so much to help people in need.
In the Feeding America Social Policy Research and Analysis department, we work hard to provide current, accurate information that can be used to help shape public policy conversations regarding hunger relief. Last month, one of my favorite projects involved drafting an executive summary of two research briefs published by the Urban Institute focused on the Latino children served by the Feeding America network, based on data from Hunger in America 2010.
From these briefs I learned that more than thirty percent of the 14 million children living in families served by Feeding America are Hispanic and that at 41 percent participation, Latino client families are far less likely to participate in SNAP than white (61 percent) or black (56 percent) families.
This project frequently reminded me of my first job after college. I was 21 years old and tasked with case management in a public school on the east side of San Antonio, Texas for 300+ Pre-K through eighth grade students and their families. Nearly all of my students lived in households below the federal poverty level and about half of them were Latino. Every child at our school qualified for free or reduced-price lunches through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). The services most requested by parents involved finding resources and leveraging supports within their own communities; as the summer vacation approached, parents would worry about the prospect of increased child care and food costs due to the absence of school. I learned quickly that the life of a single, working parent is difficult, and that school and its related services can play a crucial role in poor families’ coping strategies and safety nets.
Reflecting on my personal experiences with this population, I am not surprised that the Urban Institute briefs showed that Latino client households are more likely than their white or black counterparts to include working adults. Nor am I surprised that one of the main reasons cited by Latino client families for their lack of contact with SNAP was inconvenience. Working parents have less time to visit the local social service agency to apply for benefits, and those offices are usually closed by the time they finish work. Spanish sepaking parents are intimidated by the prospect of navigating the application process in English. My school was located in an area with very few social service agencies. Getting help required arduous and expensive travel using a nearly nonexistent public transportation system and precious time that few parents had to spare.
The lesser likelihood that these families will receive help from SNAP and other federal programs only magnifies the importance of programs such as the NSLP and Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) for Latino children. Child Nutrition Reauthorization offers the chance to provide meals to children who might otherwise go hungry and to support parents who are working hard to support their families. CNR will guarantee programs that reach those with the fewest options and opportunities to receive help from other sources. On behalf of the children and parents who taught me so much, I ask you to please help us pass this bill!