Sometimes I hear people say that kids these days have too much. I can see that. Most contemporary kids in this nation from middle-income homes do seem to have too much. Too much food, too much to play with, too much to watch. Too many activities to do, too many clothes to wear, too many choices to make. Just too many things!
It’s natural for one generation to feel that the next generation has far more things and/or has more going for them. But…
Do contemporary kids have more things than the previous generations of kids?
According to the most recent statistics about how much it costs to raise a child in America,
“…a child born in 2013 from birth to an 18-year-old adult is $245,340 for middle-income families with two parents and up to five children. For low-income families, this cost is $176,550. For high-income families, it is $407,820.”
Does this mean that contemporary kids in America are actually getting more things or is it just that much more expensive to live?
Also, what things exactly are they getting more of and do these things make them better off and/or give them more opportunity than the kids of previous generations?
In order to get answers to these questions, it’s important to first look at the basics and find out what contemporary children actually need. Then, a fair comparison can be made between the different generations of kids.
All kids (all humans for that matter) have always had basic physical needs that demand to be met-air to breathe, food to eat, water to drink and a home to live in for shelter.
Depending on where they live around the world, the needs of children differ, particularly concerning what type of living conditions they have.
Children around the globe, are faced with environmental risks. These and threats to their natural resources affect the air they breathe and determine what the air quality will be like for generations of children to come.
(*I’ll be addressing more about national and global child housing, child household items and environmental issues that children face in the blogs following this one.)
What about access to healthy drinking water?
Before 1974, drinking water around the world was a cause for concern and a public issue due to pollutants present in the water. In response, Congress passed The Safe Drinking Water Act.
The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) is the federal law that protects public drinking water supplies throughout the nation. Under the SDWA, the Environmental Protection Agency or EPA sets standards for drinking water quality and with its partner’s implements various technical and financial programs to ensure drinking water safety.
This is not a perfect system and considering the recent crisis in Flint, Michigan, the EPA continues to face challenges with regulating the quality of drinking water in certain areas of the nation. For the most part, and because of measures such as the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Lead and Copper Rule, the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, most American children have access to healthy drinking water.
In 2010, due to the rise in childhood obesity in America because of a raised intake of soda and other sugar-sweetened drinks, the U.S. Congress also passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. This requires schools to offer healthy beverages such as milk, water, and 100% juice in schools and make safe drinking water available during mealtimes to students at no charge.
Unfortunately, around the globe, 663 million people - 1 in 10 - lack access to safe water and
Globally there is much room for improvement with regards to safe water.
The food shortages that the children of the world face is another issue.
However, this is still an overwhelming figure. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), “13.1 million children under 18 in the United States live in households where they are unable to consistently access enough nutritious food necessary for a healthy life.”
This is really grim.
This recent child hunger data can be compared to that of research found in 1960 that states: “There was little public discussion of the subject during the post-Depression era until the mid-1960s, when unscientific but dramatic media exposés of the extent of hunger in the country helped launch the “war on poverty.”
Additionally, in the mid 1980’s, following a recession and reductions in federal food assistance programs, “the Physicians’ Task Force on Hunger in America reported that 20 million Americans were “hungry.”
Globally children’s needs may differ, but relatively, there are still many children all around the world that are not having their basic needs met when it comes to food and water.
Understandably, developing countries continue to struggle and face child hunger, but why does the richest nation in the world still have starving people in it?
Low-income families in our nation depend on this and other nutrition programs such as the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), and the School Breakfast Program, so they will have food security for their children.
“Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”
Low-income families suffer the most by not getting access to proper food and nutrition.
“Obesity among food insecure people – as well as among low-income people – occurs in part because they are subject to the same often challenging cultural changes as other Americans (e.g., more sedentary lifestyles, increased portion sizes), and also because they face unique challenges in adopting and maintaining healthful behaviors.”
A major reason for this disparity may be because low-income families are living in “neighborhoods that frequently lack full-service grocery stores and farmers’ markets where residents can buy a variety of high-quality fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.”
Ironically, for some kids, absence and excess of money can create a diet that lacks healthy food or food poverty.
According to a survey, released by the Centers for Disease Control, “America's love for fast food is surprisingly income blind. Well-off kids, poor kids, and all those in between tend to get about the same percentage of their calories from fast food.”
Interesting and sad.
In America, some kids just aren’t getting enough food. Some are getting just enough. Surprisingly, a lot are getting too many food things and some of these foods aren’t healthy enough.
Something needs to change.
Overall, contemporary kids have similar and more complex basic needs and food related challenges than those of previous generations.
Middle-income kids in America have more opportunity than most, but they have their own set of new problems because of this.
Child hunger still exists all around the globe, and while there are many programs in place to combat this; food insecurity, food poverty, and food obesity problems are ever present in our world.
Awareness. Also, a continued effort to supply, distribute and share the nation’s supply of food things equally to this generation and hopefully to those in the next.
Something can be done.
Tracy Bryan is an award-winning Indie author. She writes whimsical books for kids ages 4-12. She likes to tackle important and diverse topics that affect kids and their families.
Tracy just released her debut fiction picture book called Put Away Your Phone! with illustrator David Barrow. They are currently working on their next book together called Too Many Things! due to be out early 2017!
Food Charities for Child Hunger
Organizations for Childhood Nutrition Awareness