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January 5, 2009
Burke Hays: Increasing food stamp benefits would help kids, economy READER'S VIEW CHILDHOOD HUNGER - BURKE HAYS Idaho Statesman

Increasing food stamp benefits fosters immediate economic growth, but it is also a long-term investment in our neediest and hungriest children. A study in the prestigious journal Pediatrics noted the deleterious long-term effects of child hunger, including chronic illness, behavioral issues, and psychiatric stress.

A similar study in the American Journal of Public Health found that hungry children are more likely to demonstrate poor academic achievement and to repeat grades compared to their peers. Children who do not perform well in school have difficulty continuing their education beyond secondary school and obtaining adequate employment. Feeding our hungriest children now ensures a productive and educated work force to sustain America's economic future.

Talking about what can be done is one thing, but Idahoans can do a lot to demand action from their elected officials. First, officials must increase the food stamp income eligibility threshold for hard-working Americans. According to the Alliance to End Hunger, many parents working multiple low-wage jobs struggle to purchase food. Yet incomes slightly above food stamp eligibility limits prevent them from qualifying for assistance.

Second, encourage your lawmakers to stop punishing hungry families for investing in their child's future. Many low-income families cannot obtain food stamps because they have modest savings accounts, perhaps money set aside for a child's college tuition. In tough economic times, no family should be forced to drain college funds to put food on the table.

Write or call your congressperson and tell them to extend food stamp benefits to struggling Americans. Doing so will go a long way toward feeding hungry children and reviving our economy.

Burke Hays is a masters of public health student. He is an Idaho native and lives in Nampa.