Opinion

Commentary: Child hunger rates are appalling. Why aren't we doing more?

One in 5 Tarrant County children might not get to eat at home without help from food stamps.

And it’s not solely an urban problem. In suburban Parker County, 4,400 children now count on federal hunger relief.

That's 1 in 7 children.

In Johnson County: 1 in 5.

Even Hood and Wise counties have more than 2,000 children each on food stamps. Some had to wait up to three months before Texas’ swamped workers could even take their applications.

National figures announced Monday are even more jarring: Half of America's children will rely on food stamps at some time during their childhoods.

One-fourth will need them for more than five years.

So what's the conservative solution to help these children?

Ignore them, a Ron Paul supporter writes from Texas.

"The liberal newspapers are wringing their hands because there's a backlog of [food stamp] cases," activist Peter Morrison of Lumberton wrote Oct. 8 in his widely circulated poison-pen e-mail newsletter, The Peter Morrison Report.

"Call me old-fashioned, but I think people should have to wait."

Morrison, 30, a salesman and Lumberton school board trustee, worries about money.

"Our money, which we could be spending on our own families, is taken from us by the threat of force to pay for food stamps and other forms of welfare," Morrison wrote.

He described food stamp recipients as "people [who] want to live off of our labor and sweat."

At Washington University in St. Louis, the source of the new report on how badly children need food stamps, social welfare professor Mark R. Rank groaned when I read Morrison's comments.

"Whatever the numbers show for America, it'll be worse in Texas," he said.

Texas children live in a state that ranked eighth in the U.S. in terms of families living at the poverty level. And that was before the economic downturn.

When it comes to children needing food stamps, he said, "It's pretty much you and Alabama leading the pack."

At the Tarrant Area Food Bank in Fort Worth, the regional hunger charity, Summer Stringer, community outreach coordinator, tries to help those families.

"They say, 'We've never needed food stamps before,' " she said.

"A lot of people used to say they needed a 'hand up and not a handout.’ Now a lot of families are coming back surprised, saying, 'I'm going to need help a little longer.' "

Food bank Director Bo Soderbergh saw the national study.

He had one word for it: "appalling."

"When half the children in the richest nation in the world have to rely on a hunger relief program," he said, "there has to be something wrong."

I don’t think we can ignore them.

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