I worked on a project with a group about Hunger in Boulder, Colorado. We focused on why people of Boulder are hungry, how it affects them, and solutions that are either put in place already or that could be put in place by the University of Colorado. The original project can be found at https://hungryboulder.wordpress.com/.
When thinking about hunger and undernutrition, most people think about less developed countries: India, Ethiopia, Haiti. However, hunger exists everywhere and affects billions of people around the world, including in the United States, Europe, and Australia. The problem changes when children are the focus of the hunger problems in America, specifically Boulder, Colorado. 1 in 5 children are at risk of being hungry in America(2). 1 in 4 Colorado children are consistently without proper nutrition (3). It’s essential to know how children in Boulder are affected, why they’re affected, and to inform parents of options there already are for their children to receive sufficient, nutritious food.
Over 271,000 children in Colorado are at risk of being hungry and not getting the nutrition they need to live a healthy life. More than 17% of children in America live in poverty (26.9%). 24% of households struggled to feed their families in 2010. For example, according to the Colorado Department of Education, of the more than 217,000 low-income students in Colorado who ate free or reduced-price lunch a in school year 2010-2011, only 87,000 participated in the School Breakfast Program. Statistics for Boulder, Colorado specifically aren’t publicly available, however, it’s easy to assume that they are similar to Colorado as a whole with some differences.
The fact that there are so many children in Colorado and America as a whole that go hungry every day really brings this issue home. 1 in 5 means almost 400 kids at Boulder High School are hungry or were hungry when they were younger. This is a serious problem when you look at the side effects of hunger and what it does to a child’s development. But why are children in Boulder and all of America hungry if we live in a first world country?
One of the reasons for hunger in the world and Boulder is something called a food desert. In a food desert, there is not fresh food like a grocery store within walking distance of the people who live in the community. However, there may be access to fast food or other foods not considered to be nutritious, or the food in a food desert is not affordable for the less privileged people around it.
There are a few food deserts in Boulder. One of them is on University of Colorado’s campus because the food is only accessible to students with a meal plan through the University of Colorado at Boulder. The others include one west of Broadway to 9th Street and Baseline to University, and the other is Arapahoe to Independence Road and 28th Street to 55th Street. In these areas, people who don’t have access to private or public transportation have difficulties getting the food they need for the prices they need to support them or their families.
Several other reasons for child hunger in Boulder are parents losing their jobs, having a health issue, having a minimum wage job, or just misfortune. (6) When a parent loses their job and they are the primary breadwinner in the family, it’s much harder to feed their children due to not having sufficient funds. Likewise, when parents have just a minimum wage job, they still do not have enough money to be able to properly feed their family. Colorado’s $8.00 per hour minimum wage is simply not enough for families to eat on. The parent might go out to find another job or two in order to help feed their family, making it harder to raise their children since they don’t have much free time to spend with them.
Parents who have health issues and are unable to receive enough disability money, insurance help, or other financial aid have more of a chance of not being able to feed their children. This extends to parents with a mental health issue as well if they are not properly insured. When a parent’s mental health disorder is not treated, it’s much harder for them to find and keep a job, taking a toll on the finances of the home and the children in the home. No money often means no food for the children of the suffering parents. There are several other unfortunate reasons for parents being unable to properly feed their children, but no matter the reason, the children’s lives and futures are affected by being hungry.
Hungry children have trouble concentrating in a classroom setting, meaning they will get lower grades and test scores. This could falsely project poorly on the school, when it’s lack of nutrition making the children do poorly. Many children who have trouble concentrating or learning give up because it’s so hard for them. This leads to their futures being impacted greatly because these children did not get the education and skills that they need for many careers. Hungry children get more headaches and infections and are more likely to be hospitalized due to their lack of nutrition.
Kids are supposed to be very active and playful, but hungry kids are less likely to perform well on athletic fields as well as in classrooms. They simply do not have the energy to run and play and participate in both inside and outside of school activities. This could lead to gaining unnecessary weight because the food most kids who are hungry do have access to does not have the nutritional value as it should. The sugary, fatty foods that kids eat because it’s all they have, just makes the children who eat is weaker.
It’s simply much harder for children at risk of hunger to thrive. Children’s education and productivity can be stunted as well as growth (6). This not only creates a future problems with kids’ health, but also leaves room for other children to tease. Complications related to hunger could lead a child to look different from others, and many kids are teased by others due to differences whether it be physical or financial.
Children who grow up hungry are less likely to graduate from high school and go off to college, having a negative impact on their economic future. (7) This means that about 400 kids from Boulder High School have the potential to not graduate due to not receiving proper nutrition as a child. Not getting a high school diploma or college degree makes it more difficult to get a well-paying career as an adult. Parents are much more likely to not be able to feed their future children when they were hungry as children. (7)
The vicious cycle continues onto hungry children’s children and their children’s children and their children’s children. However, there are definitely solutions already put in place to help hungry children in Boulder.
There is a free/reduced lunch program at the Boulder Valley School District. Ann Cooper is the Director of Food Service at BVSD as well as in charge of the program. Foster families and families who receive food stamps are allowed free meals regardless of income. Other families apply to receive free or reduced lunch and earn either or no help with lunch costs. If families stop receiving food stamps, children are allowed their free meals for the remainder of the year. However, if income goes up, children are allowed free meals the rest of the year, but parents are required to reapply the following year. Families are allowed to apply for free or reduced lunch at any point in the year. Children are also able to receive free or reduced lunch during the time a parent is unemployed. (4)
Also, there is a summer lunch program through Boulder Valley School District in which children can go to a school during the summer months to receive a lunch that they may not be receiving otherwise. The same free and reduced plan works for the summer lunch program at BVSD, so families still don’t have to feel the extra strain of feeding a family for that meal every day. There are food banks in Boulder, Colorado as well which provide families with at least lower cost foods than most grocery stores.
No matter what reason a child is hungry in Boulder, Colorado, they have a risk for the negative effects this could have on their present and future lives. There are so many ways for these families to get help if they are properly educated about these outlets. Hunger is a problem no one should face, especially if others can help put a stop to it. Curing the hunger problem in Boulder, Colorado could lead to all of Colorado, all of America, then all of the world’s hunger problems being cured. But in order to do this, the hungry must be educated on solutions to be put in place, more people who can give to do so, and even more outlets for the hungry to be created.