It’s a familiar and heartbreaking narrative. But it’s one you’ve likely only heard about developing countries, not the United States.
Some low-income U.S. teens who are desperate for food are engaging in transactional sex with older, wealthy adults in order to get something to eat, according to a report released Monday by Feeding America, a nonprofit food bank network, and the Urban Institute research group. While these teens have access to food banks and other resources, overwhelming stigma and logistical challenges often keep them from taking advantage of such programs.
These were the extreme cases reflected in the report, titled “Impossible Choices: Teens and Food Insecurity In America,” which details the coping strategies of teens who are food insecure. The findings were released alongside a second study, focusing on solutions to teen hunger.
Based on the data gathered, experts agree that federal programs and nonprofits need to take aggressive action to better protect this vulnerable demographic. The study authors admit that the most extreme situations are far from the norm, but they’re not totally sure how many young people face such circumstances.
“We don’t know how prevalent this is,” Emily Engelhard, managing director of research and evaluation at Feeding America, told The Huffington Post of these cases. “If there are two or three teens that are engaging in this behavior, or if there are 1,000 or more, that’s still too many. It’s really important for us to understand the extremes that teens are going to so that we can try and do a better job of helping them.”
By Eleanor Goldberg, Huffington Post