|Amelia Long 06, Tiffany Lo 05, Beth Coddington 05 and Maria Nankova 05, students in the Community Research Seminar, completed a study titled “Hungry Children in Middletown.”|
| Four Wesleyan students have discovered that one out of five local children lives in a household that suffers from food insecurity.
Beth Coddington 05, Tiffany Lo 05, Amelia Long 06 and Maria Nankova 05 presented results of their study, “Hungry Children in Middletown on May 12. The students were enrolled in the Community Research Seminar taught by Rob Rosenthal, professor of sociology.
The Middlesex Coalition for Children commissioned the survey. The projects purpose was to assess the rate of food insecurity among Middletown households with children under 18.
The USDA defines food insecurity as: “a limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, or limited or uncertain ability to acquire these foods in socially acceptable ways.”
The students found that 20.1 percent of Middletown children (1,883 children) were living in food-insecure households during the past 12 months. Of those children, 15.5 percent (1,452 children) experienced food insecurity in their household but were shielded from actual hunger. However, the other 4.6 percent (431 children) experienced food insecurity with hunger within the past year. The rest of Middletowns children, an estimated 79.9 percent (7,481 children) lived in houses that were food secure.
“We tapped into a fantastic team of young researchers,” says Betsy Morgan, director of the Middlesex Coalition for Children. Thanks to our research team, we know there is a serious problem.”
They also found food insecurity is about as prevalent in Middletown as it is in the U.S. as a whole nationally with 16.7 percent of households with children were food insecure but food security with hunger among Middletown households with children exceeds the national average of 3.8 percent.
The results are based on 329 telephone and paper surveys, administered by the students and local organizations. The survey was designed by the USDA and is currently used by the federal government to measure food insecurity at the state and national level. The students made calls between 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. through 4 p.m. Sunday.
Lo, an earth and environmental science major, chose to take part in the research project to integrate herself in the Middletown community.
The results were rather surprising as I didn’t expect to see so much hunger going on in Middletown, she says. But finding this out was definitely the first step towards ending hunger here.”
The students also asked people about their coping strategies for when they were running low on food or money to buy food. The students found a trend of higher usage of food pantries than food stamps among Middletowns more food-insecure and lower income households, something that differs from the national tendency.
Long, a government major, said the food-secure families surveyed were surprised to hear so many households in their own community were having trouble affording food.
Also, a lot of people seem to think that individual factors like laziness and poor spending habits are the biggest factors contributing to hunger in families as opposed to bigger structural issues like outdated income qualifications for food stamps, Long says.
The research project grew out of the past years work by the Middletown Childhood Hunger Task Force. The Task Force was prompted by the discovery that some Middletown families with pre-schoolers didnt have enough food. Composed of local anti-hunger agencies, the Task Force is co-sponsored by the the Middlesex Coalition for Children and Middletown Mayor Domenique Thornton, who attended the students presentation.
Now that the students have documented their findings, they are working on ways other Wesleyan students can further help the reduce or eliminate problem in the future.
Were going to need everybody in Middletown to help these children, Morgan says. Its going to be a long-term project to build up and strengthen our charitable food programs. Weve got out work cut out for us.
|By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor|