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Report from the Legislature

October 9th, 2012 by

Some of the more challenging legislative matters that have been under scrutiny the last couple of weeks involve children’s issues and have been both heart-wrenching and gut-wrenching. First, there has been a review of the No Kid Hungry campaign undertaken by a group called Share Our Strength. The group’s goal is ending childhood hunger in America by ensuring all children get the food they need every day through the use of public-private partnerships to provide innovative hunger solutions in local communities. These partnerships will ideally help access existing food sources and also help teach families how to cook healthy, affordable meals.

In addition to our local food pantries, the Feed the Kids program operated out of the Presbyterian and other youth groups is a fine example of an innovative food program locally. I also understand some campuses have the garden plots to teach kids about growing their own foods. One campus invited Mrs. Juanita Webb to teach some afterschool cooking classes last year and possibly this year. Last year I visited an elementary school in Albuquerque that ran an excellent program involving growing, harvesting and cooking produce at school, incorporating the other subject areas, to teach children about healthy foods and introduce healthier choices to them. These programs/projects are all examples of teaching hunger solutions to children to stem this growing problem in America. It’s rather like the adage, “Give a child a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

It nearly breaks my heart to hear that one in five children struggle with hunger and that almost 1/3 of these are less than 5 years of age. Undernourished children suffer from impaired cognitive development and long-term emotional and health problems. In Arkansas 73% of our teachers report students come to school regularly hungry because they are not getting enough at home. Children! How tragic!

When you think about it, hunger has broad “arms” and may affect education, health, economic performance and obesity. Obesity, you might ask. Yes. Hungry children, and adults, may tend to overeat the wrong foods and create for themselves a “double whammy”.

Two unique programs in Arkansas that are also helping with this problem are the Arkansas Hunger Alliance and Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry. Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry is an organization that provides venison and other wild game to the hungry. The meat is processed, packaged and distributed throughout the state to the needy. For more information, see www.arkansashunters.org. It’s an interesting story and unique concept.

The hunger alliance also helps collect and distribute foodstuffs in Arkansas.

Another topic under review involves the educational programs administered by the Division of Youth Services for students who are placed in residential facilities. Although these troubled youth have enough problems, we, as a people, are certainly charged with delivering as nearly an adequate education to them as possible.

Another educational issue that needs some work relates to the educational woes of children of parents who are incarcerated. This is a special needs area that merits further study.

Some would say none of these problems are their problems. However, if we can’t find successful solutions now, we may be faced with larger problems later. Who knows how these problems may manifest in children as they grow?

I once taught a student who compensated his home situation by bragging that he wanted to be just like his dad – and his dad was “in the pen”. The last word I heard about that young man was that he had followed his father’s footsteps. He was incarcerated. Maybe that’s a rare case, but it’s still one child too many.

As you can see there are many problems we face. However, I believe we can solve many problems of our children like we cure or lessen some illnesses – by catching them early. Our children are our future. We need to try to help all of them create a brighter one – for all our sakes!

Thank you for giving me the privilege of working to better the futures of those near and dear to my heart – our children.

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