BEACON TRANSCRIPT – With teenage hunger on the rise across the US, teenagers turn to theft or prostitution to feed themselves. Food insecurity is now one of the biggest issues for working class teenagers. There are many risks which accompany food insecurity, like a growing crime rate.
Susan J. Popkin, a housing and poverty researcher found that teenagers were trading sex for food in Washington D.C.’s public housing communities. She says she was shocked to find this out.
The child hunger issue is not new to America. One in five US children is in a household which is food insecure. As most research and resources go to younger children, teens are often left out. Popkin says it is easier to give food to little children, while teens do not want to attract attention so their story is harder to get.
Teenagers take on many adult responsibilities, are under constant social scrutiny and sometimes exhibit dangerous behavior. This is what makes them even more vulnerable to food insecurity. A new study conducted by the Urban Institute and Feeding America brings the teenager food insecurity issue to the spotlight.
It estimates that there are almost 7 million teens with ages ranging from 10 to 17 who have to deal with food insecurity in America. That figure must have grown since the recession.
In surveys across the country, the problems are the same. Teenagers from poorer social groups are hungry, they try to avoid the stigma of asking for help, and this sometimes turns to behavior like shoplifting, drug selling or prostitution just to get some food.
One of the harshest findings is that hunger is something normal in these disadvantaged groups. Everybody mentioned it. It used to only be the homeless kids or the very poor ones. Now, even children who have a stable home have to confront food insecurity.
Most teens who deal with hunger come from rural communities in the South and Midwest. This are areas with the highest food insecurity level. Public housing and market-rate rentals or houses in coastal urban centers are also at risk. Poverty rates influence food insecurities too, as many residents of poor areas feel hungry.
To afford food, many families have their services cut, like cable, heat or power. But finding food can also lead to criminal behavior, in very poor communities.
Shoplifting and robbing are common over here. So is sex for food.
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