November 18, 2014

THE MCEVOY MINUTE | Not Everyone Gets Turkey

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By EMILY MCEVOY

With Thanksgiving a little over a week away, families across the country will come together to celebrate the holiday with delicious food, stimulating conversation and the company of old friends. Although the day is meant to be one in which people give thanks for all positive things in their life, it has, over the years, become a day primarily devoted to eating until you simply can not eat anymore — and, undeniably, there are worse ways to spend a day with people you love.

However, between their third helping of turkey and their first slice of pumpkin pie, many people forget that in the United States one in three children live in poverty, according to a recent UNIFEC report. Compared to the rest of the developed nations included in its study (41 in total) the United States was ranked the sixth worst, trailed only by Mexico, Israel, Spain, Latvia and Greece. Furthermore, childhood poverty seems to be increasing, in part due to the recent recession. According to the same UNIFEC report, poverty in the United States has increased from 2008, while it decreased in 18 other countries included in the research. Unsurprisingly, the Scandinavian nations topped the list with the lowest poverty rates — Norway’s is close to five percent. And while Norway does have a higher GDP per capita than the United States, almost all the nations that had lower child poverty rates also had a lower GDP per capita, showing that there is no reason why, with the copious amounts of money that our nation has, so many children ought to be going hungry.

Additionally, one in 30 children (or almost 2.5 million) are currently homeless in the United States, according to a new study released by the National Center for Family Homelessness. In some of the most populated states, such as California, one in five children does not have a permanent place to live. Unfortunately, it appears that homelessness rates are also increasing. During the 2012-2013 school year, a record number of children enrolled in public education, from preschool through 12th grade, were homeless (totaling at 1,258,182). And in several stateshomelessness rates are increasing drastically — more than doubling in some cases. In North Carolina, for example, there was a 53 percent increase in childhood homelessness between 2010 and 2011. These children who do not have a permanent home end up living in motels, trailer parks, in cramped houses with relatives or on the streets. In turn, they are more likely to become victims of abuse or sex trafficking, while children in poverty have a higher risk of getting sick, suffering from obesity and experiencing stunted emotional or intellectual development.

There have recently been several improvements to childhood well being that we can be grateful for this Thanksgiving, however. For example, teen pregnancy rates are the lowest they have ever been, and enrollment in preschools has increased. The number of children without health insurance has also dropped in the past few years to 7.1 percent in 2013. But many children, of course, are still suffering — and we have a responsibility not to forget about them as we enjoy our own holiday season. It is easy to get wrapped up in your to-do list, and bogged down by everyday complaints that surround you, but this Thanksgiving let us all take a moment to remember to be grateful for the food on our plates and the homes that we live in — for many deserving children across the nation cannot do just that.

Emily McEvoy is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at emcevoy@cornellsun.com. The McEvoy Minute appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.