American poverty still a harsh reality, especially for children

America has not yet fully realized the dream of Martin Luther King, Jr., and nowhere is this more apparent than in the state of poverty among America’s children.

By Shawna Templeton. Photo courtesy of
Published January 12, 2012 at 12:00am PST

The great American civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., envisioned a country of equality for people of all races and walks of life.

Nearly a half-century later, these ideals form the basis of World Vision’s work alongside children and families in need around the world — and right here in the United States.

A dream not yet realized

In Dr. King’s acceptance speech, when awarded of the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, 1964, he proclaimed, “I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.” 

This dream has not yet been realized; the true condition of our country is reflected in the state of our children.

Consider the following:

  • One in five American chldren live in poverty.
  • More than 20 million American children receive free or reduced school lunches.
  • A record 46.2 million Americans lived in poverty in 2010, 2.6 million more than in 2009.


Hunger prevents children from reaching their full potential, says Romanita Hairston, vice president of World Vision’s U.S. programs.

“When children don’t eat, hunger creates a negative domino effect, impacting not only a child’s health but their ability to concentrate in school and their overall well-being,” Hairston explains.

How World Vision responds

To help meet nutritional needs in the United States, World Vision is providing family food kits for families in need. Each kit contains three to four meal packets — enough food to feed a family of five for one day by providing sustenance such as oatmeal, lentil soup, and pasta. Kits will be distributed to struggling families or in communities impacted by disasters.

In partnership with local churches, schools, and businesses, World Vision also assists U.S. children and families through:

  • Tutoring, life skills training, or mentoring for high-risk youth
  • Distribution centers that provide school supplies, clothes, toys, household goods, and building supplies
  • Humanitarian emergency assistance to assist families in the wake of disasters


Through these programs, World Vision provides resources to those who are leading the fight against poverty here at home, and empowers families and communities as they support their children.

How you can respond

Pray for parents in the United States who struggle to provide for their children. Pray that they would receive assistance they need, and have access to the means to keep their children fed, healthy, and educated.

Make a one-time gift to help feed hungry U.S. families. Your gift will help provide family food kits, each containing a day’s worth of nutritious meals for a family in need right here in the United States.