Hunger is Not a Positive Motivator for Children

18 July, 2009

Yesterday, I posted an older story about a religious cult in Baltimore in which a 21-month-old boy was starved to death because he would not say ‘amen.’  Starving a child is a notably ineffective way to change a child’s behaviour (and starving him to death even is even less effective).  Sadly, one state representative from Missouri would disagree.

In a perfect example of ideology trumping reality, Cynthia Davis, the Missouri State Representative for the 19th District, is all for child hunger.  In her latest newsletter, she comes out very strongly against summer food programs for children.

And in case you’re asking yourselves, “Who the hell is Cynthia Davis?”, her website  is quite informative.

Prior to her public service, Rep. Davis and her husband opened Back to Basics Christian Bookstore in 1989, and was a recipient of the O’Fallon Business Association’s “Business of the Year Award”.

Back to basics?  Would that be a Bible written in Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic and Latin?  Never mind.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services issued a press release regarding summer food service.  The subtitle of the press release states: 

Current economic woes make Summer Food Service Program more important than ever.  Program provides nutritious meals to young people throughout the state.”

That sounds good, right?  Not to Davis.  She adds some comments of her own on her newsletter (this is a few selected quotes, click over to read the whole pile of scheisse):

The implication suggests that during a recession, parents don’t give their children nutritious food.  . . .  Families may economize by choosing to not waste hard earned dollars on potato chips, ice cream, or Twinkies.  Perhaps some families will buy more beans and chicken and less sweets.  (Has anyone pointed out the relationship between obesity and poverty?)

Is school the only place a child can get a nutritious meal?  (In some cases, yes.  (((Wife))) and I know children who dread snow days because they will not get a free school breakfast or lunch)   . . .  Who should be the one to pass judgment on what defines a nutritious meal?  (The United States Department of Agriculture, working with medical doctors, nutrionists and dieticians do a damn good job of it)

They are using a “crisis” to create an expansion of a government program.  (Aren’t government programs supposed to step in when there is a crisis?  Isn’t that the point of these programs?)  . . .  If parents are laid off, that doesn’t mean they stop feeding their children, at least not any of the parents I know  (If you are unemployed, or underemployed, how do you get the food to feed your children?  Do grocery stores give food away for free to those who have no money?).  Laid off parents could adapt by preparing more home cooked meals rather than going out to eat.(And if they don’t have bread, they can eat cake!)

. . . Why have meals at home with your loved ones if you can go to the government soup kitchen and get one for free?  This could have the effect of breaking apart more families.  (Holy shit, I think she’s serious about this!)

Who’s buying dinner?  (The taxpayers who have jobs and the businesses paying taxes.  Duh!)   Who is getting paid to serve the meal? (Minimum wage workers who are trying to keep food on the table for their children.  Don’t you read what you write?) Churches and other non-profits can do this at no cost to the taxpayer if it is warranted.  (And without paying people which takes income from the working poor). That is what they did when Louisiana had a hurricane.  (Right. There was no state or federal response (it took awhile, but it was there).  Hell, so was I!)

The estimated expense for all of these “free” meals for 2009 summer months is $9.8 million. (They are supposed to be free for the kids who need the food.  Of course someone needs to pay for the food.  That keeps the food suppliers in business.  As well as the farmers.) . . . 

. . . .

Anyone under 18 can be eligible?  Can’t they get a job during the summer by the time they are 16? (If there are jobs available, yes.  Part time McJobs are now being taken by parents who are trying desperately to keep food on the table for their children.) Hunger can be a positive motivator. (And it can stunt emotional and intellectual growth, it can make the body more susceptible to infection and parasitical infestation)  What is wrong with the idea of getting a job so you can get better meals?  (Have you looked at the unemployment rate?  A severe recession created by exactly this sort of ‘compassionate conservatism?) 

Keep in mind, folks, this woman helps to write the laws in the state of Missouri.  And, apparently, the state GOP loves her. Which means that she may end up in Washington. 

Hunger can be a positive motivator?  You have got to be shitting me.  Big time.

This does fit in very well with yesterday’s post.  Purely serendipitous, I assure you.


  1. To quote several survivors of the Great Depression that I ahve known over the years, “Nothing puts people to work like imminent starvation.” Government stepping to “save the day” gives people an out, rather than taking whatever job they can find, until they find something better, it gives people a chance to sit back and do nothing to help themselves. If you really want to help these children, let their parents fulfill their parental responsibility, if the parents fail to do so, put the children in a home where they will be properly cared for.

  2. Many years ago, the deacon and I were involved in an inner city ministry in a major North American city. One day, near the end of whatever month it was, a lady I was visiting proudly told me about how well she had managed her food budget that month – she even had some food left over to start the next month.

    She took me into her kitchen, opened a cupboard and showed me a shelf with two cans of whatever on it. That’s it. The cupboards were completely bare except for those couple of cans. I was stunned. Even when I was a college student, my shelves were never anywhere close to that bare. Shit, I have more cans than that on my shelf now that probably expired several years ago.

    Poverty sucks. Maybe if we’d stop spending so much money on “defense” we’d have a few more dollars to spend fixing things at home.

  3. Thank you Billy & the Chaplain! I know what being borderline homeless is like. The first 16 years of my life was like that. The hardest part isn’t actually living on cheap peanuts and bread, but the shame of not being able to do the same basic things as going to the movies or buying dessert for special occasions or knowing that your parents are in “respectable” and stable jobs. Making friends, building social networks & getting settled in a community is difficult if you can’t bring anyone over for a nice dinner which you can’t afford and you keep moving every 3 years to avoid eviction out of a home.
    This summer food program is a great idea. Fruit, protein -the solid nuitrition that prevents disease-is insanely expensive when you’re middle class -unreachable if you’re poor. Sure you can live on bread alone but you won’t have all the nutrients you actually need and you will become depressed, unhealthy and bloated because of a seriously poor diet. Being poor is shaming and depressing enough all by itself. This summer food program probably takes some stress off poor parents while at the same time providing much-needed nutrition.
    Once again, the “family values” crowd proves they don’t actually value families (unless they’re patriarchal, white, & rich)!

  4. Chaplain,
    If we stopped spending so much on “defense” we wouldn’t have to worry about poverty or hunger, the dead never seem overly concerned about these matters. If we take into consideration that our enemies actually want us dead (and that does seem to be the case after 9/11) it is the money “wasted” on defense that makes these issues debatable.
    Whether we like it or not, there are people in this world that choose poverty, they make no effort to improve their lives, they believe they have a right to be supported by those who do work for a living. Their “right” makes it harder for the rest of us to provide for ourselves and our families due to the ever-increasing taxes to support those who choose to be reliant on government programs.

  5. Davis is one of those heartless nitwits who thinks people are only poor if they’re lazy and that if you’d stay home and grow organic strawberries and prepare gourmet meals for your family (instead of eating out at McDonald’s) you’d be both thinner and richer.

    She’s never lived in a world where you don’t have any place to grow a geranium let alone organic strawberries.
    She’s never lived where the local market has a “produce” section the size of a postage stamp and the cheapest item is $5/lb. If you don’t have a car you can’t exactly go 10-20 miles to Safeway or Whole Foods and haul back ten bags of high quality food so you choose from what you’re offered–overprocessed junk.
    She’s never worked so many hours in a week that you have neither the time nor the energy to prepare something that requires more than 30 minutes.
    When you have a nice house with all of the necessary food-preparation items it’s easy to look down your nose and preach to people about preparing fancy meals from fresh foods. What if you don’t have a working oven or stove? What if you don’t have myriad knives and other implements? What if you don’t even have a decent refrigerator or freezer? How do you get, preserve and prepare all of these fancy meals? You don’t. You rely on processed junk that you can make with a minimum of implements (perhaps a hot plate and small pot or fry-pan) and which don’t require lots of pre-cook preparation. Mac and cheese, ramen, hot dogs, etc. They’re cheap and easy and they fill you up, but they’re unhealthy as can be.

    Davis needs to read “Nickel and Dimed” by Barbara Ehrenreich and learn something. It might behoove Davis to do an experiment like Ehrenreich did–live on minimum wage jobs for a while and learn it isn’t as easy as it looks from her place on high.

    Are there some lazy poor people? Yes, just as there are some lazy rich people. But to punish all poor people because some are “undeserving”, children in particular, is criminal.

  6. DC: Thanks for stopping by. Of course the government shouldn’t be involved. Those hungry 8-year-old kids should be out there working. If the government hadn’t put such severe restrictions on child labour. No problem, right? Just open a lemonade stand (if they can afford the ingredients, right?). Or, just use that old standby (quite common in nations which do not provide a safety net), child prostitution.

    Chappie: (((Wife))) and I have never been there, but we’ve come close back when we were much younger (just out of the Army, for me). Luckily, a friend told us about WIC and it saved us. Literally.

    Eaten: Odd that the right confuses obesity with getting enough to eat. I’ve been trying to find some stats regarding what type of calories (carb, protein, fat) go into diets based on income. Haven’t found it yet.

    DC: We are maintaining a military to fight world war III. We are, by ourselves, spending about as much as the rest of the world combined. We are continuing to buy weapons for which there is no use in today’s world. I’m all for defense. Notice I did not say offense.

    Buffy: Couldn’t agree more. And it is the kid’s fault that they didn’t get born into a stable upper-middle-class family, right?

    • Billy,
      no, I don’t believe that 8 year olds should be working, at least not for necessities, if they want something extra I do think they should work to earn the money to buy things like a motorcycle, or when a little older a car. I mowed lawns and threw newspapers to pay for my first motorcycle, I didn’t kill me and in fact I learned some important lessons that you would deny todays kids. The necessities, food, clothes, shelter and health care are the responsibilities of the parents, not government, and not “society”.
      Regarding the military spending, I would remind you that we let our guard, and military spending, down prior to the attack from Japan in 1942, we had let our guard, and military spending, down under Clinton and just 9 months after he left office we were attacked by Al-Qeada. Roosevelt was attributed with saying, “Walk softly, carry a big stick.” That sounds like a good idea to anyone with any understanding of National Defense.

  7. It seems odd to me that people like her (war lovers) really have no sense of history, do not remember the basic reason for these nutritional programs. All they have to do is read the congressional record.

    These programs came into effect in the name of “National Security” because the initial rejection rate for military induction was so high during the early parts of Korea and WWII. Mainly due to diet in ones formative years. (Eyesight, teeth, underweight, bone malformation were among the leading causes of rejection, all due to dietary deficiencies. Later, they dropped standards and a survey disclosed that the soldier who went ashore on D DAy was about one inch shorter and ten pounds lighter than the initial inductees at the beginning of the war. One wonders at at the rest of the physical and the mental profile)

    My father was initially rejected because he was so underweight and his teeth. They said theywould waiver his teeth if he made a certain weight. He ate nothing but bananas (my mother said it almost broke them, they were so expensive at the time) and he just made it. To the day he died he never ate another banana. But he had starved as a child. Not just been hungry, starved.

    So, it wasn’t humanity, kindness, or altruism that drove these things as the conservatives darkly state, it was simply the state making sure it’s potential chattel were plump enough to go to slaughter when needed.

  8. These programs came into effect in the name of “National Security” because the initial rejection rate for military induction was so high during the early parts of Korea and WWII.

    I never knew that, Sarge. Thanks for the info. Damn, I learn something every day in the atheosphere.

  9. It’s the old Calvinist thing — predestination. If the poor are poor it’s because it’s foreordained, they’re not among the chosen, and they deserve whatever happens to them. If they deserve to be poor than they also deserve to suffer. Structural factors? Economy contracting? Unemployment rising? All irrelevant — until one of those right wing wackaloons loses his or her job, too. That’s when they freak out when they get told they have to exhaust their savings, sell their Lexus because it’s value exceeds the cap for how much your car can be worth, and subject themselves to humiliating experiences like asking their neighbors to fill out forms attesting to the presence of children in the home before they can get their Food Stamps or TANF grants. Seriously. In Michigan if you want any form of government aid you have to go knock on two neighbors’ doors and ask them to sign a statement saying they know you have children living in your home.

    Buffy, the right has an answer to the question of punishing children for the sins of their parents. Newt Gingrich articulated it a few years ago: if you’re poor, instead of asking the government to help you with your kids you should put them up for adoption or place them in orphanages. I think Newt has images of bringing back the orphan trains of 100 years ago.

  10. “Buffy, the right has an answer to the question of punishing children for the sins of their parents. Newt Gingrich articulated it a few years ago: if you’re poor, instead of asking the government to help you with your kids you should put them up for adoption or place them in orphanages. I think Newt has images of bringing back the orphan trains of 100 years ago.”

    I’ve never understood the mentality of the so-called “pro-lifers”. They scream about the “sanctity of life” and do everything in their power to ensure women will give birth whether they want to or not. Then they punish the women and the children by reducing and/or eliminating any means they may have had of surviving and having a decent quality of life.

  11. Sarge: Thanks. As I read your comment, I remembered the national security aspect. Double-damn.

    Nan: That, and the idea that the poor must have done something to deserve being poor. Not just destiny, but punishment as well.

    Good ol’ Newt. Newt, Limbaugh, Beck and Bachman, the voice of rational compassionate conservatism.

    Buffy: The old ‘our interest begins at conception and ends at birth’ bit. Depressing.

    All: I have come to the conclusion that there is a very basic diffrence between conservatives and progressives. Conservatives see such things as infrastructure improvement, affordable health care, good nutrition, etc. as different versions of welfare. Progressives view the same projects as investments in the future. Infrastructure improvements create a stronger economy. Affordable health care creates a healthier workforce yielding fewer sick days and a stronger economy. Good nutrition yields healthier and more educable workers making health care cheaper for all and the economy stronger. Why are conservatives against improving the economy?

  12. I have to admit that when I think of the conservative, the picture I get is Daffy Duck i Aladin’s cave yelling, “MinemineminemineMINE”!

    My boss used to say that weather was “cold as charity”. In the past almost fifty years I’ve come to see what it meant.

  13. Hi Ya’ll, After having spent a couple of days thinking on this and while I find it completely egregious that any child in the richest free country on the planet could ever possbly go hungry, be they secular or sectarian, what I find most appalling is that lately there has been a rash of children most unfortunately born into these religious sects that die simply for lack of basic medical care because…”jesus will heal or ressurect the kid”. Honestly it makes me sick to my stomach. 40 years ago we had the ability to put a man on the moon and we still don’t want everyone to get needed healthcare. I want all kids to get the same healthcare our enrusted members of congress get, better yet that should have read everyone. End of rant.

    • “40 years ago we had the ability to put a man on the moon and we still don’t want everyone to get needed healthcare.”
      We do get these people needed health care, nobody ever gets turned away from an Emergency Room, it’s the law in this country. Compare that to someplace like the Philippines where if you don’t have insurance and can’t afford to pay cash, you are left without healthcare, children die there from rabies merely because their parents can’t afford the shots to save them. That doesn’t happen here. England and Canada both have universal health care, but the people in those countries, if they can afford it, come to the US to get treatment. Why? Because the problem with universal health care is the cost, it has to be rationed, it isn’t universal, or even good. The elites get great health care, everyone else gets less than we have now.
      IF we want to reduce health care costs, and allow more people to get preventative health care, the answer IS NOT Obama’s health care reform, it is tort reform. Frivolous lawsuits cause insurance companies to increase the cost of malpractice insurance, which is now required for doctors, nurses, paramedics. The cost of malpractice is going up due to the lawsuits over ridiculous things, “the doctor hurt my feelings when he told me I needed to lose weight, now I’m suing.” Doctors are required to have this insurance, the cost of the insurance goes up, the doctors and hospitals have to raise their rates, basic economics. Tort reform would allow the cost of malpractice insurance to come back down, that woujld allow doctors and hospitals to reduce their rates, which would, in turn, allow health insurance rates to come down, making basic health insurance more affordable and putting us back into a place where most people could afford to see the doctor without insurance for basic preventative care (which can be done now since a doctor’s visit is only about $75, cheaper than a night out to eat for a family of 4). The best part of my plan is that it would be effective and would not require a single dime of government money, meaning no tax increase for anyone, no increase in the national deficit, and no health care rationing like in Canada and England.

  14. Sarge: What a perfect description of modern conservatism.

    Tau: And good nutrition is part of good health, good health reduces health care costs. So of course the conservatives are against it.

    I am amazed that congressmen and -women, who have health care run by the government, think that what they love would hurt the rest of the country. Weird.

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