LIMA — A group of children and adult leaders from a summer youth program in Lima marched through the city Thursday to raise awareness about potential budget cuts to programs that help families in need.
The march was part of the Children’s Defense Fund’s 2017 National Day of Social Action and was organized locally by the Lima Area Freedom School program. Around 35 local children and young adults marched from Bradfield Community Center and South Elementary School to the Allen County Court House and Town Square, joining thousands of people from across the country who are participating in similar marches.
The group helped raise awareness about potential budget cuts that would affect the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Women, Infants and Children Food and Nutrition Service and other supplemental programs like school lunches. The march also showed “the need to strengthen federal programs critical to give all of America’s children a healthy start in life,” according to event organizer Bliss Hairston.
“We are here to make Congress aware, as well as our community, that if they have budget cuts they will cut SNAP, they will cut WIC and they will also cut summer programs as well as school lunches,” Hairston said. “This affects all of us, not only our community and our country, but the world.”
Hairston said 13.1 million children in the U.S. will lose at least one meal a day if these cuts take effect. She also pointed out that 16,740 families in Lima are in a “food security crisis.” She said these statistics show how critical it is to keep the programs that help these families intact, especially the federal funding that is used for meals at area schools.
“It affects their learning and it affects them in the future if they don’t get these meals from school,” Hairston said. “No child should go hungry.”
The children who participated in the march brought hundreds of empty plates that they hung on trees and other areas where they marched. The plates represented the more than 13 million children who may go hungry if these cuts take effect, Hairston said. Written on the plates were phrases and questions such as “we love SNAP,” “we love WIC,” “no child should go hungry” and “Congress, did you miss a meal today?”
Chaeli Erake, a 10 year old from Elida schools, was one of the children who participated in the march. She said she thought it was important to raise awareness.
“I hope we can raise awareness for the 13.1 million kids that don’t eat a meal,” she said, “and we hope we raise awareness for the 16,740 kids in Lima who don’t eat a meal. A lot of kids could die from starvation, and that’s not good.”
Reach John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @Bush_Lima.