School closures are worsening Food Inequality in poor American children

Last Sunday, Betsy DeVos, the US administration’s Education minister showed up in a TV political show to defend the call of President Trump to “open the schools.” In a recent Washington Post article, Jennifer Rubin criticized her avoidance of the hard choices and expensive policy/administrative measures that the government has to previously put in place before allowing millions of children back into classrooms. “No, she does not have a plan. Does she want schools to follow the CDC guidelines? She talked in circles but really could not say. If there is an outbreak, should schools go back to distance learning? More double talk. Well, how about teachers who cannot go back because of their own health risks. More mumbo-jumbo.”

The Trump administration might be trying to play politics with such a delicate issue by trying to steamroll the opening of schools across the state and local authorities, but there are other voices from a different political stance that are asking the same. The American Academy of Pediatrics has called for their immediate re-opening. In a guidance paper published in their website, they said: “ Schools are fundamental to child and adolescent development and well-being and provide our children and adolescents with academic instruction, social and emotional skills, safety, reliable nutrition, physical/speech and mental health therapy, and opportunities for physical activities…” They enumerated several policy measures to make re-opening feasible.

The draconian socio-economic measures taken in the past four months to enforce the needed Social Distancing, including the closing on countless small businesses and myriad services across the country, has worsened wealth disparities in the USA. In a Yahoo Finance brief, Andy Serwer said: “According to a report earlier this year from the non-partisan Pew research Center, the richest families in America now take home 48% of aggregate income in the U.S. versus 29% in 1970, (with the top 5% faring best of all) Middle-class income fell from 62% to 42% over the same period.”

The closing of schools for so many long months will exacerbate the food insecurity already experienced by millions of US households before the pandemic; a survey of the U.S. Department of Agriculture stated that 14% households had children with food insecurity. For all those of us who are witnessing the incredibly long lines of drivers waiting in their cars for their turn to open their trunks and have food items stashed by the delivery stations’ volunteers from food banks/ charity organizations, we know that the income inequality and poverty are getting worse in our society. Sadly, the unemployment rate after the pandemic will affect Minorities much worse as the areas most resiliently affected will be Education, Care and General Services.

In an online comment in The Lancet, Wim Van Lancker and Zachary Parolin said: “research suggests that non-school factors are the primary source of inequalities in educational outcomes. The gap in mathematical and literary skills between children from lower and higher socioeconomic backgrounds often widens during school holiday periods. The summer holiday in most American schools is estimated to contribute to a loss in academic achievement equivalent to one month of education for children with low socioeconomic status; however, this effect is not observed for children with higher socioeconomic status.”

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