By Susannah Morgan, CEO, Oregon Food Bank
I have the utmost respect for single moms.
Last night, our ten-year-old son Rhys was up most of the night, sick. He is developmentally disabled, with the rare genetic condition William’s Syndrome, and the combination of illness and exhaustion drives him to scream and sob. For hours. Because my wife functions better on poor sleep than I do, my wife stayed at Rhys’s side all night. A single mom would not have that (oh-my-goodness-so-appreciated) spousal support. And she would still have to go work today.
Single moms lose all the sleep, do all the parenting, earn all the income, manage the household single-handedly, hopefully maintain a social network, and somehow not lose their minds.
So it is sad but not surprising that hunger stalks single moms.
The recently released USDA Food Security Study found that food insecurity is outrageously high in families headed by a single mother/female caregiver: 27.8% of all families headed by single moms face hunger, compared to 13.9% of all families with children and 8.3% of married couples with children. Single moms and their families face TWICE OR MORE the rates of hunger.
Hold onto your hats; it gets worse.
The 2018 poverty data shows (to use the official language) that “in families with a female householder, no spouse” 1 in 4 families live in poverty. If that family includes children under the age 18, then 2 in 5 families live in poverty. If that family contains children under the age of 6 – a staggering 1 in 2 families live in poverty.
Half. Half of all families with single moms and kids under six are living in poverty. What the hey?
I can only conclude that we, as a society, are failing single moms. Which is morally despicable. And rather terrifying, because like many women, I am one tragic car accident or medical crisis away from single motherhood.
So what can we do? Well, one of the great supports for single moms facing hunger is school meals – breakfast, lunch, afterschool snacks, even dinner in some schools. These meals, which meet rigorous nutritional guidelines, are eaten by the kids, not the moms, obviously; but the provided meals help. The meals free up mom’s financial resources, simplify her household chores, and ease her psychological burden, as she knows that her kids will eat well that day.
Congress will be reauthorizing the Child Nutrition Act this fall, which funds the school meals programs as well as another great support for moms, WIC (Women, Infants, and Children). You can help us make sure our Congressional Delegation knows how important these programs are. Sign up here for our regular advocacy alerts – and prepare to take action.
Because single moms deserve our help.
September is Hunger Action Month – the nationwide effort to mobilize communities to take action on the issue of hunger. Too many Oregonians still experience hunger. To eliminate hunger in Oregon, we must meet today’s needs and tackle tomorrow’s challenges.
Take action today. Together, we can end hunger. We’ll work on two fronts in our mission to end hunger – by building community connections to access nutritious, affordable food today and by building community power to eliminate the root causes of hunger for good.