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COVID’s devastating impact on Texas children

By Roz Brown

Texas News Service

AUSTIN, Texas — When it comes to protecting children during the pandemic, Texas has not fared well compared with many other states.

A new report examines three factors that make it increasingly challenging for America’s kids during the pandemic: hunger, lack of tools for remote learning, and difficulty for families to pay their bills.

Data for the report was evaluated at the one-year mark of nationwide school closures due to COVID-19 by Save the Children.

Meredith Reid, Texas deputy director for the group, said Texas ranked among the bottom 10 states.

“At the end of 2020, 21% of Texas households with kids reported not having enough food to eat,” Reid noted. “That’s more than one in five families in Texas struggling to put food on the table.”

The data collection ended before the devastating winter storm last month that left many Texans without power or water for more than a week.

The report showed states where children are faring best are not necessarily the ones with the lowest COVID cases, but instead are those that have made significant investments in comprehensive early childhood programs such as Minnesota, Utah and Washington.

Reid added last month Save the Children was able to provide 10,000 boxes or 300,000 pounds of food to families in need through the USDA’s “Farmers to Families Food Box” program.

“One grandmother at a food distribution was talking about the need that her family was experiencing,” Reid recounted. “She’d had her hours reduced at work, and the need for her family was extremely urgent. She was considering what sacrifices she might need to make.”

Tamara Sandberg, U.S. food security and nutrition advisor for Save the Children, said it is clear COVID-19 has been a crisis, with millions of kids now hungry, missing out on learning and forced into poverty.

She emphasized the pandemic exacerbated the wide gap between children who are raised in Caucasian families and those raised in Black and Hispanic families.

“These families are twice as likely as white families to lack enough food, they’re twice as likely to be struggling with housing costs and they’re about one-and-a-half times as likely to have difficulty paying bills,” Sandberg outlined.

In addition to equity gaps along income and racial-ethnic lines, the report found children younger than 18 who are poor and live in rural areas are more likely to be negatively impacted.