Poverty spotlight: Choosing between your children

When vulnerable families are struggling beneath the crushing weight of poverty, the simplest decisions often become difficult for parents. Even the most basic needs become crises.

Imagine hosting a family meal. The plates are out. Everyone is sitting down ready to eat. The food is hot on the table. But there isn’t enough for everyone.

You decide to skip the meal. You want the best for your children, so you put them first.

Then you realize there isn’t enough for all your children either. You’ll have to decide which of them will eat as well.

That’s exactly what impoverished families like those served by Buckner around the world are doing each day, according to a new study by Johns Hopkins University economic professors. It’s like asking a parent to decide which child they love the most.

"If you're really poor, you try to sacrifice yourself first, but when you're forced to make some choices, these parents are deciding to let the teens not have enough—if they have to give up on something, they're giving up on teenagers," said JHU Economist Robert Moffitt. "It's hard to imagine parents having to do that."

The study found that older children suffered the most—with boys going hungry slightly more regularly than girls. The youngest children were typically the last to miss a meal.

Intervention is key in helping families. Buckner Family Hope Centers and Buckner Humanitarian Aid regularly deliver aid to families to help them through immediate crises.

But Family Hope Centers offer more than immediate relief. They strengthen families as well, empowering them to long-term sustainability. Parents learn skills for better employment. They learn new trades to supplement their income.

That’s what Hope Centers do: Equip families, empower them and elevate them. As a result, they’re stronger than ever.

That’s something that can be celebrated around a meal. 

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