Not All Kids Are All Right in Bucks County

2012 saw a recovery of sorts for Bucks County, with the median family income finally returning to 2008 levels, but there’s little relief in sight for children at the lower end of the economic spectrum.  A disproportionate number of children—nearly 9,000 total—in Bucks County live in poverty, and the situation continues to get worse.  Most troubling, not nearly enough are getting access to the benefits they need.

In Bucks County, children—especially those under the age of six—are more likely to be living in poverty than adults.  The poverty rate for all children is 25% higher than the rate for adults; the rate for young children is shockingly nearly 70% higher than the adult rate.  These figures are alarming, but what do they mean in real terms?  They mean that 1 in 7 children in Bucks County don’t have access to enough food to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  While there are resources to help combat the food crisis Bucks County currently faces, it is clear that not enough is being done to ensure they get to every child in need. 

Less than a quarter of Bucks County’s residents are children, but nearly 40% of its residents on Food Stamps (SNAP) are.  This is due to a 20% rise in the share of children in low-income families since 2008, in turn leading to a 43% increase in children receiving Food Stamps from FY2009-10 to FY2012-13.  With the 43% increase in children on Food Stamps, there was a corresponding 42% increase in students eligible for free and reduced-price school meals from 2008-12.  That, in and of itself, is not surprising.  It makes sense, since these are the same children we’re talking about.  But eligibility does not equal access.  Despite thousands more children needing free or reduced-price lunches, participation in the program actually fell 5% in the last five years.  And only 20% of low-income students received school breakfast in 2012.

For children, having enough nutritious food everyday should be a right, not a privilege.  Insufficient nutrition is one of the most basic and formidable challenges standing in the way of children’s well-being.  Children growing up without food security are more likely to experience higher rates of educational problems including missed days of school, suspension and the need to repeat a grade.  In Bucks County, more needs to be done to combat the rising numbers of food insecure children.  Nancy Morill, President of the Bucks County Women’s Advocacy Coalition agrees.  “Mothers across the County are doing everything they can to help their children grow,” she said.  “Bucks County Families are facing increasing needs in this time of economic stress, which we hope our federal and state elected officials recognize.”  As the County has started to pull itself out of the recession, there is no more important time to focus on its children.