A report published this week by the Urban Institute and Feeding America states that teens feel responsibility to help feed their families, sometimes taking jobs or selling their possessions.
“I will go without a meal if that’s the case,” said one girl in Chicago. “As long as my two young siblings is good, that’s all that really matters to me.”
The report is based in interviews with 193 teens in 20 focus groups spread across the nation. Child hunger attracts national support and attention, but this study pinpoints how teenagers struggle with family hunger.
The researchers asked how teens cope with hunger and barriers preventing them from accessing food assistance. A big fear among teems is being stigmatized.
According to Susan Popkin, a co-author of the report and senior fellow at the Urban Institute, when teens engage in risky behavior they are viewed with disdain and not recognized as being victims of sexual exploitation and hunger.
“We need to be thinking about getting assistance to families with teens,” she said. We need to stop thinking about teens as the problem and start helping them.”