Monday, September 12, 2016

Report: Hungry Teens Often Feel Responsibility To Help Feed The Family | California Healthline

A report today from the California Healthline reveals a disturbing fact. Many adolescents are required to help feed their families.  Many are not aware of public assistance programs such as Cal or Medicaid programs.

At the same time it is heartening that young people are devoted to their family and attempt to remain independent from government programs.  What would be good would be a public employment (part time) for youth who could be active in rebuilding community, such as improvements in housing, or neighborhood cleanup programs.  Rather than having a rather meaningless job at a fast food restaurant, or worse, dealing in controlled substances they would contribute a real need for their community, and  gain self esteem.  By using unemployed needy youth it could offset increasing public budgets for community services. The effort should be coordinated with official agencies for public service as to optimize the program(s) without unduly effecting the job market.

Teenagers as young as 13  often play an active role in feeding their families,  taking jobs when they can or selling their possessions to help raise money for food, researchers found in a detailed look at hunger among adolescents.
In extreme cases, teens resorted to crime and sexual favors in exchange for nourishment.
Yet, according to the research, many cringed at the thought of using a local food bank.
“I will go without a meal if that’s the case,” said one girl in Chicago. “As long as my two young siblings is good, that’s all that really matters to me.”
The report, published Monday, is from the Urban Institute, an economic and social policy research group, and Feeding America, a national network of food banks. It is based on interviews of 193 teenagers in 20 focus groups across the country.
Researchers asked teens how they coped with hunger in their communities and what barriers prevented them from accessing food assistance programs. They discovered many teens shrink from seeking help for fear of being stigmatized.
Susan Popkin, senior fellow at the Urban Institute and co-author of the report, said teens engaging in risky behavior are often treated with disdain instead of being recognized as victims of sexual exploitation and the cycle of hunger.
“We need to be thinking about getting assistance to families with teens,” she said. We need to stop thinking about teens as the problem and start helping them.”
The federal Department of Agriculture last week released the latest government estimate of household hunger, finding 13 million children and 29 million adults did not have sufficient food at some point in 2015. That is nearly 13 percent of the U.S. population.
In 13 of the 20 focus groups, participants in the Urban Institute study mentioned “selling their body” or “sex for money” as a viable strategy. While participants in nearly every focus group preferred finding a job to make ends meet, many had trouble finding work and school commitments made working more difficult, the teens noted.
Others simply went hungry so their siblings could eat.
The report also found teens didn’t know many of the resources available to them. In addition to feeling stigma, some participants perceived local food pantries as inaccessible and believed summer programs targeted small children, not adolescents.
Despite that progress, teens reported that Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program SNAP benefits — federal food assistance —do not provide enough food for the month
Teachers and other program directors for adolescent programs should learn to evaluate adolescent behavior stemming from hunger....irritability,  lethargy, depression, stealing food, or money, selling personal possessions or other family items.
Publc schools should display articles about adolescent and child hunger on their bulletin boards. PTAs should discuss these needs with parents.
Other sources of information can be found:

Report: Hungry Teens Often Feel Responsibility To Help Feed The Family | California Healthline
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