Teens on the Hidden Epidemic of Hunger

Teens on the Hidden Epidemic of Hunger

Video Courtesy of TEDx Talks


For many young people, the toughest choice they will ever have to make about food is what to eat at home or what to choose from a menu.

But for Texas high schoolers Tamiya, Juliana, Trisha, Cara and Kristen, the choices they have to make about food are more difficult. For them, the conversation is less about food and more about how to put food on the table.

“It’s kind of hard because like, I know I’m young, and my momma don’t want me to get a job, but it’s really helping out,” Kristin told us for a 2019 study regarding her decision to work as a waitress at a fast-food chain. “Because basically, my check is paying for the food we’re going to eat … the tips I made today are what we ate off of.”

Such stories are part of a hidden epidemic that I – a social work scholar – and one of my students, Ana O’Quin, investigated for a recent study about food insecurity among America’s teenagers. Food insecurity, as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, means limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods. It also means the inability to acquire foods without resorting to socially unacceptable means, such as stealing or transactional dating.

The consequences of food insecurity follow teens into the classroom and even reduce their chances of graduation.

According to the most recent federal estimates, 37 million people live in food-insecure households. This includes nearly 7 million young people who are 10 to 17 years old.

The problem of food insecurity is particularly pronounced among African Americans, who collectively are twice as likely as whites to experience food insecurity.

Teenagers took pictures of their meals to show researchers the quality of their food options.Author provided

Going without

Teens in these households are more likely to skip meals or not eat for a whole day because there was not enough money for food. Some teens drink water, eat junk food or go to sleep instead of eating a meal.

“Most parents will feed you before they feed themselves,” Trisha told us. “When food stamps first come, Mamma cooks a lot. But like a week later, it’s nothing. Maybe cereal, or noodles, sandwiches.”

Juliana added, “We used to always buy rice, because you can buy a lot of it, and it’s cheap. You can buy Spam and rice and that would be the whole meal for the rest of the week.”

While many teens rely on their parents and guardians well into adulthood, we found that these teens rely on themselves before they even become adults. Julianna says she started babysitting at about the age of 12 to help put food on the table.

“Whatever money I would get from that, I would give it to my mamma,” Julianna said.

It’s not uncommon for teens to sacrifice to make sure their mother eats.

For instance, Kristin told us that her thinking goes like this: “I know your health is worse than mine. So mamma make sure you eat. I don’t care … I can scrounge up some food at school.”

Taking risks to eat

The teens we spoke with shared how peers engage in risky behaviors that have long-term consequences. Out of desperation, some teens – rarely but still too often – find themselves shoplifting, stealing, transactional dating, “trading sex” for food or selling drugs to access food. “Stealing is the main thing,” said Cara.

Health impact

Teens typically experience a growth spurt and need more food during adolescence. Without adequate nutrition, teens often experience the short-term effects of food insecurity, such as stomach aches, headaches and low energy. Teens in our study mentioned having a difficult time focusing in class or even staying awake during school.

Food insecurity can result in long-term effects in the following areas:

Physical health conditions, like asthma, anemia, obesity and diabetes.

Mental and behavioral health including anxiety, depression, difficulty getting along with peers, substance abuse and even suicidal thoughts.

Cognitive health such as slower learning rates and lower math and reading scores.

What can be done?

These teens live in households eligible to receive free and reduced breakfast and lunch and food assistance benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the U.S. government’s largest anti-hunger program, which served 40 million in 2018.

Eligible families receive an electronic benefit transfer of funds each month to purchase food, on average US$1.39 per meal.

Teens from our study said they preferred electronic benefit transfer over the stigma of going to a food pantry or other public place to receive food. To address the hidden epidemic of teen food insecurity and its consequences, the teens first suggested increasing food stamp benefits to provide the extra food growing teens need.

The teens in our study also suggested:

• Encouraging teens to participate in school sports or afterschool programs like The Cove or the Boys and Girls Clubs where meals are served.

• Recommending that restaurants participate in food rescue programs like Cultivate that prepare weekend meals for schoolchildren.

• Cultivating gardens at schools or in the community through organizations like 4-H clubs, university extension programs and the Food Project.

• Developing job training programs like the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative to help teens gain skills to break the cycle of poverty and hunger.

Employment desires

Teens like Kristin prefer to work to help put food on the table. While research shows there are benefits of teens working to provide food for their families, it also highlights the trade-offs such as students abandoning school for work.

Young people who experience food insecurity bring a keen awareness to this challenge. It’s time for people who can do something about the problem to listen to what they have to say.

Stephanie Clintonia Boddie, Assistant Professor of Church and Community Ministries, Baylor University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Southern Baptist church: Racial prejudice a factor in rejection of black pastor

Southern Baptist church: Racial prejudice a factor in rejection of black pastor

The campus of First Baptist Church Naples in 2014. Video screebgrab via Southwest Florida Television

A prominent Southern Baptist church in southwest Florida has acknowledged that “racial prejudice” was a factor in its congregation’s decision not to appoint a black senior pastor candidate.

Pastor Marcus Hayes, a leader of Biltmore Church in Asheville, North Carolina, received 81% of the vote by “a record 3,818” in attendance Saturday and Sunday (Oct. 26-27) where the “energy and excitement was like nothing we have ever seen before,” according to an email from the pastoral staff of First Baptist Church Naples.

But an 85% vote was needed for approval, based on the church’s constitution, the staff said.

“Last week, through social media, texting, phone calls and emails, racial prejudice was introduced into our voting process,” the staff wrote in the email that was posted on The Baptist Blogger Twitter account.

“Please know that specifically your Pastoral Staff is deeply, deeply grieved,” the staff wrote. “We are grieved for Marcus and Mandy that they had to endure such vileness. We are deeply grieved that the wonderful name of our Lord and the reputation of First Baptist Church Naples was affected by this campaign against Marcus Hayes.”

Hayes, who is married to Mandy Hayes, was being considered to succeed Hayes Wicker, who announced earlier this year his plans to leave his position after 27 years.

The staffers went on to call “anyone who took part in such divisive and sinful actions to immediately confess and repent.”

Hayes, through his assistant, declined an interview. First Baptist Church Naples did not immediately comment further on the situation.

The southwest Florida congregation once included Chuck Colson, the onetime “hatchet man” for Richard Nixon who founded Prison Fellowship after serving seven months in prison as a felon who had pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice.

Pastor Marcus Hayes preaches at First Baptist Church Naples on Aug. 4, 2019. Video screengrab via FBCN

Hayes is a member of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee and previously worked at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, where former SBC President Jack Graham is senior pastor.

Graham told Religion News Service he has seen the email from the pastoral staff and is “very angry” about the outcome of the vote for Hayes, whom he has mentored.

Divisions in the church prior to Hayes’ consideration could have made it difficult to choose any new pastor — Graham said he has joked that even “Billy Graham in his prime” would have had trouble getting an 85% vote.

“However, it appears that there was racism that raised its very ungodly head in the midst of this and some false reports and just slander and flat-out lies regarding Marcus,” said Graham. “You can only conclude that sin, in effect, disrupted this whole process and the call of a good and godly man to be the pastor.”

The Southern Baptist Convention has grappled with race relations for decades before and since it passed a 1995 “racial reconciliation” resolution. That statement, adopted on the 150th anniversary of its founding in defense of slave-holding missionaries, said members of the denomination “lament and repudiate historic acts of evil such as slavery from which we continue to reap a bitter harvest.”

The Rev. Dwight McKissic, a Texas pastor who has worked to get Southern Baptists to adopt resolutions condemning white supremacy and repudiating the Confederate flag, called the outcome of the Hayes vote “Shameful!” and tweeted a suggestion that the Naples church should be disfellowshipped from the Southern Baptist Convention.

Graham said he considered the issue a matter for the local church — including possibly removing some of its members — but he doubts the SBC would disfellowship the Florida church under the current circumstances.

“They could do that but I’m sure the Southern Baptist Convention would think twice about that,” he said. “You do have … 3,000-plus members that sit on the right side of this issue.”

Kirk Franklin to Boycott Dove Awards

Kirk Franklin to Boycott Dove Awards

Kirk Franklin performs during the Dove Awards on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Prominent gospel musician Kirk Franklin says he will boycott the Christian music Dove Awards, citing frustrations with the Gospel Music Association and Trinity Broadcasting Network for editing his past acceptance speeches to remove mentions of race and police shootings.

Franklin made the announcement on Monday (Oct. 28) in a pair of videos posted to Twitter. Speaking directly into the camera, he explained that after winning a Dove Award — which is affiliated with the GMA — in 2016, he called for racial healing during his acceptance speech, noting the shooting of both police officers and black men in general.

“When we don’t say something, we’re saying something,” Franklin said during the speech, after which he received a standing ovation and led the assembly in prayer.

In his Twitter videos, Franklin said that when the speech later aired on TBN, that section of his speech was edited out of the broadcast.

“I made my disappointment and frustration known to the Dove Awards committee and to the Trinity Broadcasting Network,” he said. “I never heard from TBN, and the Dove Awards committee promised to rectify the mistake so that it wouldn’t happen again.”

Franklin won another Dove award in 2019, when he again made mention of police shootings during his acceptance speech — this time noting the death of 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson, who was shot by a white police officer in her own home in October, according to published reports.

During the awards ceremony held Oct. 15 — which marked the 50th anniversary of the Christian music awards — Franklin asked those in the audience and those watching to pray for both Jefferson’s family and the family of the police officer. Those remarks did not appear when the award show was broadcast on TBN a few days later.

“Again, that part of my speech was edited out,” he said.

Final Soundcheck@finalsoundcheck

Kirk Franklin explains his frustration with and decision to boycott the Dove Awards after his acceptance speech was edited to omit his portion mentioning racial injustice for the second time. (1/2)

(📹: @kirkfranklin)

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Franklin said that after meeting representatives from the Dove Awards committee and TBN, he has decided to boycott the awards.

“I have made the decision after prayer, consultation with my team and my pastor Dr. Tony Evans, to not attend any events affiliated with or for the Dove Awards, Gospel Music Association, or TBN until tangible plans are put in place to protect and champion diversity, especially where people of color have contributed their gifts, talents, and finances to help build the viability of these institutions.”

Franklin stressed that his ultimate goal is reconciliation, but also accountability.

“Not only did they edit my speech, they edited the African American experience,” he said.

GMA President Jackie Patillo issued a statement in response, stating that “we had to significantly edit the Dove telecast to 2 hours” and that “many were disappointed because there were so many memorable moments and noteworthy portions of acceptance speeches absent.”

Gospel artist Kirk Franklin

Gospel artist Kirk Franklin prays during “Together 2016,” an evangelical Christian prayer rally in Washington, D.C., on July 16, 2016. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

Patillo also apologized, saying the GMA “would like to publicly acknowledge that we are deeply apologetic for the missteps that happened relating to the editing of Kirk Franklin’s Dove Awards acceptance speech.”

She added: “We accept the responsibility of our error. Although completely unintentional, we understand it caused great harm and deeply wounded many in the African American and Gospel community.”

Patillo said TBN has made an unedited version of the ceremony available through Video On Demand and that GMA plans to announce new “initiatives” developed after meeting with Franklin and his team.

Relevant founder accused of creating racially insensitive workplace

Relevant founder accused of creating racially insensitive workplace

Cameron Strang, the founder and CEO of Relevant Media Group, found himself under attack from a host of former employees this week who accused him of behavior they said was racially insensitive and changed depending on his mood.

Relevant Media publishes a Christian bimonthly geared toward young evangelicals, as well as a website and a network of podcasts.

It was the allegation of racial insensitivity that came in a Twitter barrage on Wednesday (Sept. 18) after Relevant recommended a podcast episode about race and the church on the social media platform.

In reply, Andre Henry, an African American writer who served as Relevant’s managing editor from October 2017 through July 2018, shot back: “Several experiences & stories from my time at @RELEVANT … convince me the org is not committed at all to creating an antiracist culture internally to produce a race podcast with integrity.

“Nor do they honor Black people,” he added.

Henry followed his tweet with a blog post on Medium, titled “Black Christians Deserve Better Than Companies (And Churches) Like Relevant Media Group.

“The company is in need of the very information they wish to publish for others,” Henry wrote.

Recent Relevant magazine covers. Screengrabs

Henry’s retorts spurred a stream of online testimonies from people who used to work for Strang, both African American and white, men and women, who registered indignation about what some called a toxic environment that they say Strang created. They described a workplace in which Strang exhibited various levels of high-handedness, shouting fits and racially insensitive slights.

On its website Friday (Sept. 20), Relevant issued a statement, headlined, “RELEVANT’s Stand on Racial Justice,” explaining that the magazine had reached out to Henry to apologize.

“In our conversations with him,” the statement said, “he discussed ways we could improve our corporate culture, and based on his insights, we are looking into options to continue improving and create systems to ensure every member of our team has a positive experience.”

After the statement brought further criticism over the course of the day, Strang appeared to delete his Twitter account.

In an interview with Religion News Service, Henry, who now works for Evangelicals for Social Action and hosts a podcast called “Hope and Hard Pills,” described Relevant’s office culture as not outright hostile to people of color — “no one’s using racial slurs,” he said — and added the staff included a range of writers.

But he said that the company’s commitment to diversity was more cosmetic than genuine.

Andre Henry. Video screengrab

“They have done well at appearing to be about racial justice,” said Henry. “They post the right things. They say the right things. They make sure that they have a good mix of people of color in the magazine and on the web, but I don’t think that in their practices as an organization that they honor people of color in that way.”

In his blog post, Henry said the beginning of the end of his tenure at Relevant came after a run-in he had with Strang over coverage of Black History Month.

Henry had planned a month’s worth of content related to the topic, but Strang reportedly warned him not to “waste editorial energy” and complained the site would have to post seven or eight articles each day online to “offset” one article about race, he said.

Not long afterward, Henry wrote, he was “stripped of all decision-making power.”

While he kept his title as managing editor, responsibility for web articles was given to the outlet’s brand manager and articles in the magazine to its contributing editor.

The March/April 2012 issue of Relevant, featuring The Roots on its cover. Screengrab

Ryan Hamm, who worked at Relevant as an editor and managing editor from 2009 to 2012, told Religion News Service of an incident in which members of the editorial staff, including Strang, were discussing the poor newsstand sales of an issue of the magazine that featured an image of the band The Roots on the cover.

“(Strang) said, as I recollect, ‘Well maybe our audience doesn’t want to see scary black men on the cover of Relevant,’” said Hamm, who is now employed at a nonprofit that fights religious persecution. “As soon as he said that, (I thought), ‘If that’s true, then I have no interest in writing for this audience, and I’m done.’”

Rebecca Flores, who preceded Henry as managing editor and whose pen name is Rebecca Marie Jo, wrote in a blog post published Friday that Henry’s post validated her own experiences.

She recounted a meeting in which Strang suggested running an image of a black Christian rapper with a noose around his neck as a “shocking image to symbolize his lynching by white evangelical America” after the rapper was criticized for his support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Flores, who is Latina, said that she told Strang that she found the idea deeply troubling and offensive.

“Listen. I’m telling you, as a person of color, that if I was reading this magazine, whoa is not the reaction I would have. I would be deeply disturbed. And alienated,” she said. “We do not need to publish an image of a Black man in a noose. This isn’t a good idea.”

Flores said the incident made her feel “like I was in a trap I wouldn’t get out of safely.”

She said Strang “was obviously annoyed with me, and I left trying to hide my exhaustion towards this environment.”

RNS reached out to Strang for comment and to corroborate accounts from former staffers, but he did not immediately respond.

Strang, the son of Charisma magazine publisher Stephen Strang, founded Relevant Media Group in Orlando, Florida, in 2000, when he was 24 years old. As hip as his father’s magazine was religiously conservative, the sleekly designed magazine and website heralded unorthodox Christian heroes from the rock and literary world such as Bob Dylan and the rock band U2, about whom the publishing enterprise also issued adulatory spiritual and musical biographies.

Offering a glimpse of God in popular culture, Relevant’s magazine alone claimed a readership of more than 100,000 by the mid-2000s and had become a guide to navigating mainstream American culture for a generation of young Christian adults venturing out of the evangelical bubble.

But the publication wanted to “avoid taking any strong stances that may be polarizing,” Henry wrote on Medium. And, he believed, it catered to its “mostly white, male, conservative-leaning base.”

“It’s just not for us. We’re welcome to partake, but this is white content for white people,” Henry wrote.

Reviews of Relevant Media Group on Glassdoor, which publishes job listings and company reviews, also hint at issues within the company.

In a one-star review from June 2019, an anonymous user who identified themself as an employee who worked there less than a year, described the outlet’s “work culture” as the “most toxic I’ve ever worked in” and noted the high turnover of staff.

Another review from a user who said they are a current employee who has worked at the company for more than three years gives the outlet four stars, but expressed concerns about Relevant’s leadership.

“The CEO can be erratic, sometimes irrational (especially with female employees) and is very stubborn about everything. He is very controlling, and everything must go through him,” the review said.

Henry said he hopes Relevant’s response can be a teachable moment for evangelical organizations.

“I think that all evangelical institutions who see this, they can be looking to see what to do or not to do depending on how well Relevant doesn’t just listen to me but listens to all the other people that are chiming in,” he said.

Hamm and others were quick to celebrate the work of Relevant as a whole and pinned their frustrations specifically on Strang. Even though he used terms such as “spiritual abuse” to describe his former boss’s behavior, Hamm insisted he remained proud of the work he produced at the magazine.

“Besides Cameron, it would have been the best job I’ve ever had,” Hamm said.