By The Rev. Corrine Denis, Lutheran Campus Center of Winona, Minn.
I write on this Mother’s Day to speak out about an issue that is close to my heart: childhood hunger in the United States. I speak not only as a campus pastor who witnesses the results of childhood development in the college students I serve, but also as a mother who has benefitted from the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)– one of our country’s child nutrition programs that plays a critical role in helping reduce childhood hunger.
I was in my final year of seminary when I gave birth to my first child. Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa, provided a food pantry on campus for students and families, aware of the financial challenges. However, my family and I could not rely on boxes of cereal and bagels from Panera to get us through. Thankfully, we were able to receive assistance from WIC, which allowed for a more balanced diet and extra protein for me to nurse my daughter. The produce allowance was extremely limited, and I had more tuna than I knew what to do with. While I am grateful that my child was supported by one of our country’s child nutrition programs, my own experience also showed me that these programs do not go far enough to truly ensure that our children have access to nutritious food.
In a nation of great wealth and resources, no child should ever go hungry. Children who face hunger are also forced to face a lifetime of challenges, including low birth weights, diminished immune systems, emotional and developmental growth delays, educational delays, greater hospitalization, decreased earning potential as adults, and higher life-long health costs.
This year, Congress must renew funding for our federal child nutrition programs in order to ensure that our nation’s children have adequate access to nutritious food where they live, play and learn. These programs include WIC, as well as the National School Lunch Program and the Summer Food Service Program.
As we take a moment to celebrate motherhood, let us also pray that God gives strength to all parents who strive to give their sons and daughters a healthy and happy childhood.