If you care about hungry kids, there is much to celebrate in the latest unemployment data. Ninety-six consecutive months of job gains – eight straight years, have driven unemployment down to 3.7%, its lowest level in half a century. Employers have added nearly 20 million jobs during this streak. It would be all but impossible for hunger not to diminish significantly, as more families have more of the resources necessary to feed their children.
Wage improvement is finally beginning to reach those who have been at the bottom of the earnings ladder. According to The Wall Street Journal: “The lowest paid Americans saw weekly earnings grow more than 5% in the second quarter from a year earlier, more than the national median gain of 1.7% for all workers… Workers with less than a high school diploma saw their wages grow almost 6%…”
The eight years of jobs growth coincide with eight years of our No Kid Hungry campaign. We’ve had the benefit of executing our No Kid Hungry strategies in a favorable climate of economic growth rather than constrained by governors facing scarcity. The results are equally dramatic: fewer than 1 in 10 kids going hungry and childhood hunger down to historically low levels, even though 1 in 6 kids still live in homes that experience food insecurity.
I know some who find it difficult to celebrate the economic results given the boasts of President Trump that he is solely responsible for them. But of course the streak began under President Obama and the real issue is not political credit but millions more children benefiting from the best anti-hunger program of all: parents working and able to support them.
That may be why we see participation dropping in public nutrition programs, like school lunch, WIC and SNAP. To the extent it is for these positive reasons (as opposed to the increasing fears of immigrants that participating in such programs could jeopardize their hopes of remaining in the U.S.), we may soon be challenged to deploy our resources in additional important ways to help kids thrive. Although hunger is diminishing, food insecurity and child poverty remain devastating problems.