Food, clothing and shelter are the basic needs for every human on earth. However, there is a segment of the population that live on the streets, eat food from dumpsters and daily wear the same clothes. There are those that take these basic needs for granted. In America we are blessed to have a variety of foods to eat, but our selections maybe limited based on our income level.
In September 2016 the Urban Institute and Feeding America reported that teens are selling their bodies for food. Initially, I thought they were referring to third world countries. It became very clear and shocking to me that in America, teen girls are swapping sex for food in order to eat and survive. Furthermore, boys that are desperate for food will shoplift and sell drugs to eat. This information was very disturbing to me and I could not sleep that night.
According to Feeding America, there are nearly 7 million children between the ages of 10 to 17 who struggle with hunger and live in households with limited or uncertain access to food. Two major studies- "Bring Teens to the Table” and “Impossible Choices", have documented teen food insecurities. Some of their findings are:
Teen food insecurity is widespread
Teens are active participants in family food acquisition
Teens fear stigma around hunger and actively hide it
Teens strategize about how to mitigate their hunger and make food last longer for the whole family
Most teens are aware of summer feeding options but perceive them as largely for younger children
Teens will engage in criminal behavior or transactional dating relationships to get food
It is unknown how many teens are resorting to these desperate measures. But I have a strong sense that all their other options to eat failed. The report provided many recommendations for improving policies and practices to reach teens. After discovering this information Land of Promise partnered with an alternative school to increase our access to serve food insecure teens.
The fact that teens are having sex in order to eat should not be a surprise to me. After all, food is a basic need that sustains life. If you were hungry and all your normal options to obtain food were exhausted, what would you do to eat?