Sunday, June 14, 2009

Hunger Artists Ladle Up Another Serving (Get It?) But We're Full.

No sooner had we posted this prescient piece last week questioning the highly dubious proposition that “hunger” is a big problem among Houston children* than the city’s leading daily newspaper weighed in with an editorial piquantly headlined “Hard Times: Summertime’s no picnic for Houston’s hungry children” (“hunger” … “picnic” … “Summertime” … get it?). Amazingly, this blowsy space filler (“Summertime’s no picnic for editorialists”) was based on no actual facts but rather on--check it out—an opinion piece by the head of the scare organization Children at Risk that had appeared on the newspaper’s Sunday op-ed page a few days earlier. Other than repeating the assertions made by Children at Risk—given the state of the newspaper biz, wouldn’t it be better for the Chronicle if it just sold ’em an ad?—the editorial was notable in that it appeared to be encouraging more people to apply for food stamps. In Texas. Must be a sign of the times …

No need to despair, though. Almost every comment affixed to the on-line version of the editorial questioned its premise, in mostly reasonable terms. As one reader wrote: “Show us pictures of all these starving kids with their bones showing. I'll bet most of these kids below the poverty line are fat.”**

Yes, obesity, not “hunger,” is an actual real-life problem among kids from lower-income families, so perhaps the Chronicle editorialists and Children at Risk could team up to fill up some more valuable newsprint space by campaigning for a new government program to monitor and restrict the caloric intake of Our Town’s at-risk youth.

*We know that some, perhaps many, self-righteous types will arise from the congregation and declare, with a certain self-congratulatory smugness, “Well, if there’s one hungry child in Houston, that’s one hungry child too many.” To which we’d say: Yes, that’s true, so go out and find this hungry child and take him to the Jack-in-the-Box near you.

** It wasn’t too many years ago that Phil Gramm (who, we must confess, was not among our favorite politicians, although he could be engaging in person) was reviled far and near by such deep thinkers as Molly Ivins for making the observably true statement, “We’re the only country in the world whose poor people are fat,” or something like that. While he certainly might have employed a better choice of words, Gramm was on the money, as subsequent repeated studies linking obesity to poverty have shown.

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