By David Gutierrez
Almost half of all children living in the United States will receive food stamp assistance at some point before they turn 18, according to a study conducted by researchers from Cornell and Washington Universities and published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
Although food stamps were first introduced as a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program, they are now overseen by state governments. Researchers analyzed 30 years worth of data from food stamp programs around the country, finding that nearly 50 percent of all children will receive food stamp assistance at least once during their childhood, if not multiple times.
According to researcher Andrew Gelman, the findings rebut the common perception “that people are either on welfare or they’re not.” In reality, many families use food stamps and other forms of economic assistance to get through short-term difficulties such as job loss, professional transition, or other financial troubles.
“While there may be a group of children who are persistently exposed to poverty, many move in and move out,” policy analyst Sarah Meadows said.
The findings also show that poverty is more widespread in the United States than many people believe. Even those who are not living in abject poverty may be going without basic necessities or nutritious food, said family welfare specialist Olivia Golden. Poor nutrition in childhood can, in turn, cause health problems throughout life.
“There are several levels of economic disadvantage and we should worry about all of them,” Golden said.
According to the USDA, 15 percent of U.S. households were food insecure in 2008, compared with 11 percent in 2007. The figure is the highest ever since the department began collecting data in 1995.
Marcia Meyers of the University of Washington noted that even those who are getting enough food may actually be undernourished due to an over-reliance on cheap junk food. This may explain, she said, why obesity rates are so much higher among those with lower incomes.
Sources for this story include: www.redorbit.com.