The nation wants to feed hungry students: Congress, make it happen

By Dr. Lyndon Haviland

July 5, 2023

When an overwhelming number of Americans support a specific public health policy, as rare as that is these days, you’d think our elected leaders in Washington would rush to pass legislation that reflects the will of their respective voters.  

And when that policy involves the pressing issue of solving child hunger, you’d think Congress would move expeditiously to prevent further suffering endured by a defenseless segment of the U.S. population. 

Unfortunately, that isn’t happening. 

The fate of a bill that addresses this very problem by making free school meals permanent for eligible U.S. recipients is currently in limbo. Research has shown such programs can have a positive impact on student math and English test scores. Nearly 70 percent of U.S. adults support it

Congress has the ability to act, right now, to make it federal law for the upcoming school year. But the bill has stalled, and its future remains in doubt.  

Once again, SNAP is a political football: And Americans suffer for it

By Dr. Lyndon Haviland

May 20, 2023

More than half of all students, and nearly 40 percent of all faculty at New Mexico’s higher education institutions don’t have enough food to eat. The findings, from a new state-funded study, reveal troubling statistics representative of a worsening problem across America. New Mexico is taking steps to address it — and other states should pay attention. …

The study is timely, as government programs designed to help those who go hungry every day are currently being politically targeted for elimination. The nation’s food insecure are now pawns in a debt-ceiling showdown between Democrats and Republicans in Congress, where elected leaders are placing their own political agendas above the needs of starving U.S. citizens.  

America’s heinous regression on child labor exploits vulnerable migrants

By Dr. Lyndon Haviland

April 19, 2023

Current figures from the U.S. Department of Labor show today’s unemployment rate has dropped to 3.4 percent. It’s good news — low unemployment is typically a leading indicator of a strong U.S. economy. 

But there’s a much darker side to a tight job market: Companies that can’t find (or afford) the people they need are hiring migrant children to fill the void. It’s not just illegal — it’s shameful and inexcusable. …

The White House has apparently known about the growing issue of child migrant labor. HHS has even settled lawsuits with internal whistleblowers who have tried to call attention to it. These settlements should be a wake-up call for the Biden administration to lead and bring the full force of our government to stop the unlawful and inhumane hiring of migrant youth in America.  

America’s EV aspirations are putting human lives at risk

By Dr. Lyndon Haviland

March 28, 2023

U.S. companies that still source cobalt from Congo are turning a blind eye to the human rights abuses that support the production of many of their products. Many companies tout their environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices, but they ignore the well-documented realities of industrial and artisanal mining. Meanwhile, the public is largely unaware of the true cost of the phones we use every day, the computers we work on every day and the electric vehicles we may soon drive every day. Our elected leaders need to adopt new policies to ensure these companies act responsibly. …

We have laws in America that prohibit abusive labor practices. Yet at the same time, we are enabling the abuse and mistreatment of hundreds of thousands of people to accelerate our vision of an EV future.

Aren’t we better than this?

Regardless of income, Black women face death to give birth in America

By Dr. Lyndon Haviland

March 1, 2023

recent study from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) found that the wealthiest women and their infants are more likely to have better childbirth outcomes than those who are not. Unless they’re Black, that is, where new statistics reveal a disproportionate impact on people of color, regardless of income level. …

Experts cite the effects of systemic racism regardless of economic status. Black women encounter “untoward experiences” and face bias by medical professionals, conscious or unconscious. Some of these patients express concerns that their pain won’t be taken seriously. Others fear hospital security may be called based simply on the color of their skin.  

These experiences deny pregnant Black women — those able to pay — from receiving the care they deserve. We can’t ignore it; we must listen, learn and do the necessary work to minimize this community’s unacceptably high risk of pregnancy complications. 

The Inflation Reduction Act alone won’t lower prescription drug costs

By Dr. Lyndon Haviland

February 9, 2023

People are choosing between paying for essential medications and putting food on their tables. The Biden administration took steps last year to control runaway prescription drug costs as part of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). But many of the bill’s provisions fall short, and some are years away from helping Americans gain access to drugs at a reasonable cost. …

President Biden should be applauded for doing more than any other president in recent history to try and address the issue of skyrocketing prescription drug prices. The Inflation Reduction Act is an important start — but the problem is nowhere close to being solved.  

Lawmakers must continue to push for faster reductions in prescription drug prices and create incentives for health insurers to cover the widest array of pharmaceutical options on their formularies. Then, and only then, will we have a strong reason to celebrate.

Extending SNAP support should be a no-brainer in this economy

By Dr. Lyndon Haviland

January 13, 2023

The Agriculture Improvement Act, known as the farm bill, is up for renewal this year and lawmakers will soon debate whether to extend key provisions that currently help 34 million people suffering from food insecurity in America.  

But in today’s divisive political environment, where 15 voting rounds are needed to elect a Speaker of the U.S. House, the likelihood that our leaders will reach a consensus on this important legislation, sadly, seems entirely unthinkable. …

The bill’s current term, which expires later this year (unless Congress acts), has a total budget of $867 billion, where nearly 80 percent of it funds food stamp programs (now called the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP).  

SNAP is the most important tool we have in combatting America’s hunger crisis. But over the years, its inclusion in the farm bill has been at the center of an ugly tug-of-war between two fiercely divided parties on Capitol Hill. …

As Congress demonstrates where they stand when they debate and vote on this year’s bill, the health and wellbeing of millions of Americans hang in the balance. 

The homeless crisis should be an omnibus bill priority

By Dr. Lyndon Haviland

December 16, 2022

Once again we find ourselves on the brink of a government shutdown. As today’s deadline neared, Congressional leaders scrambled to pass a stopgap measure to keep the lights on for another week as they negotiate a bipartisan omnibus bill that would fund the government and advance key initiatives for the next fiscal year. 

The main sticking point centers on how much the U.S. should allocate toward domestic spending. A $26 billion stalemate stands in the way of both parties reaching a consensus, according to Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). As lawmakers horse trade and deal make over the next week to avoid a repeat of what occurred in 2019, over a half-million homeless Americans — including many veterans — hope they won’t be a casualty of the current game of chicken taking place on Capitol Hill.

America’s universities are failing students facing mental health crises

By Dr. Lyndon Haviland

November 24, 2022

This Thanksgiving, college students across the nation are taking a temporary break from classes to celebrate at home with family and friends. Yet for students struggling with thoughts of suicide and other serious mental health issues, some may be told not to return to campus. … Congress has done little to provide funding to understand the stresses and challenges students are confronting. And many universities aren’t providing students the support they need to be healthy and resilient. 

We’re using 1960s guidance to measure poverty in 2022

U.S. Census Bureau data released this fall sparked national attention over the historic drop in U.S. child poverty statistics for 2021. Many believe these figures will climb again following the expiration of many pandemic stimulus programs. 

Still, lessons can be learned from these numbers regarding what we as a nation can do to lower the suffering millions of Americans face every day. The biggest one: The way we measure poverty in America today is horribly outdated and requires a serious overhaul.