A Mother’s Hunger: A Four-Part Discussion

May 7th, 2012 § 1 comment

Mother’s day is Sunday, May 13 – a time to celebrate the sacrifices and joys mothers have brought to our lives.  In today’s hungry America, the challenges poor mothers face is not very well known. In fact, the face of hunger is very much a woman’s face. Social factors including unequal opportunity for education and employment, domestic violence, inequitable wage compensation, insufficient child support, and lack of access to affordable healthcare and housing make it difficult for mothers to put and keep food on the table.

There is finally more research available to understand the unique circumstances mothers face, and provide policy solutions to address the situation. In this four-part series, we’ll look at three stories about real mothers, the facts surrounding their struggles, and our recommendations for supporting hungry women and their families.

A Mother’s Hunger Part 1: The Female-Headed Hungry Household

Tiffany regularly feels the physical pain of hunger. “I frequently go without food. I feed my children first and go without,” says Tiffany from here in Austin, Texas. “My children understand the sacrifice I make. They thank me every day.” Her children are between the ages of 12 and 18, she continued, “it’s extremely difficult being a single mother. It’s a struggle living every day.”

Fact:  Gender and single motherhood play a big role in hunger.

Single motherhood is very common here in the U.S. and above average in comparison to other high-income countries. Half of all mothers will spend some time as the only parent, while one in four mothers are exclusively the only parent.  The Women’s Legal Defense and Education fund has a great fact sheet on the state of single motherhood in the U.S.

Of these single mother households, more than a third in America were at risk of hunger or food insecure, the highest rate of food insecurity for household types tracked by the census.

Not surprisingly, single mother poverty rates are high, even when SNAP and Earned Income Tax Credits are counted.

When we look at statistics at the local level, things get worse.  The Community Action Network’s Community Dashboard for 2012 shows that women and children are most likely to be low-income (making less than $44,100 annually for a family of four).   48 percent of single mothers in Travis County with children under the age of five live in poverty (making less than $23,050 annually for a family of four).

Research has shown that it is often the mother who chooses not to eat so that her children will be nourished.  How does that choice impact a mother’s health?

In part 2, we’ll explore a mother struggling with the paradox of hunger and obesity.

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