Others have noted the spectacle of Representative Rehberg deciding that the most important issue of fraud we need to investigate is the scourge of children perhaps receiving a fraudulent peanut butter and jelly sandwich while at school, but as a teacher, I actually know, unlike the Congressman, the impact of hunger of children. It’s devastating, harming them academically, physically, and socially.
Dr. Larry Brown, from the Harvard School of Public Health, notes that hungry children simply can’t learn:
Hungry children haven’t the capacity for normal learning and play; while their bodies are in the classroom they lack the dietary fuel required to engage meaningfully with those around them. As a result, their cognitive abilities deteriorate not because of changes in brain structure, but due to the seemingly more “benign” cause of insufficient dietary energy.
Dr. John Cook, from the Boston Medical Center says that food insecurity leads to mental health and entanglement with the criminal justice system:
By elementary school, researchers have found that children who are hungry are four times more likely than non-hungry children to have a history of needing mental health counseling; seven times more likely to be classified as clinically dysfunctional; seven times more likely to get into fights frequently; and twelve times more likely to steal.Behavioral problems like aggression and stealing often lead to contact with the criminal justice system.
Want to hurt children and our economy? Make it more difficult for those students to get access to nutritious meals which will give them the mental acuity and physical stamina to learn.
The real crime is that not there are child bandits sneaking their way into the school lunch line, but that many students who are qualified for assistance do not receive it. Whether it’s social stigma or an inability to navigate bureaucratic red tape, many families simply do not get their children the assistance they are entitled to. In fact, making it more difficult for children to get food through faux fraud checks like those suggested by Rehberg will only make it worse.
Of course, this would just be another example of Representative Rehberg failing to understand the difficulty of poverty in the United States were it not for Rehberg’s budget for his appropriations subcommittee, which actually cuts funding for programs designed to address the fraudulent world of for-profit colleges:
There’s a provision to block Education Department rules designed to protect students and taxpayers from those for-profit colleges with the very worst records as far as student debt loads and defaults.
And there you have Representative Rehberg: we shouldn’t investigate the abuses of corporations who are ripping off consumers and the federal government for billions each year; we should make sure that children don’t get nutrition.