We know you’re hungry, kids, but you see, the deficit…

There’s been a lot of talk about how the recession will impact our children for years to come. The ways we’re shortchanging the next generation are many: parents deferring contributions to college funds, the government’s continued failure to shore up Medicare and Social Security, and the massive national debt our kids will be paying for well into their canasta years.

Those are terrible, and I’m not looking forward to the day they come crashing down on our heads.But what about the impact the recession is having right now?

Slashed school budgets, scaled-back community programming, and fewer disposable dollars for discretionary items like fresh produce and new eyeglasses are immediate and tangible consequences of the downturn — and they’re not the only ones. If the recession will be causing headaches decades from now, it’s giving our kids a serious case of whiplash today.

It kind of reminds me of that new Pepcid Complete commercial, where the guy goes to order a fast food combo and the cashier asks him: “Would you like that to hurt now or hurt later?”

Why choose, when we can have both? That’s what we’ve got, according to the Child and Youth Well-Being Index (CWI), which released its 2010 report Tuesday. The index, headed by a group of Duke University analysts, has tracked 28 quality-of-life markers dating back to 1975, and its most recent report shows substantial declines in 2009, many of which are expected to last into 2012. The report reads:

The worst has yet to come. Our research shows that conditions for children deteriorated through 2009 and are projected to bottom out in 2010. Virtually all the progress made in the family economic well-being domain since 1975 will be wiped out.

Among the lowlights :

  • One in 5 children will be living in poverty this year, the highest rate in 20 years.
  • Food insecurity remains an growing problem. Almost 18percent of children will lack consistent access to safe, nutritious food in 2010, up from 16.6 percent in 2007. That’s 750,000 additional children who don’t know where their next meal is coming from.
  • The researchers predict an all-time high for the number of teens aged 16-19 who are neither in school nor working.

And then there’s every pediatrician’s favorite doomsday statistic: For the first time in recorded human history, the current crop of under-15-year-olds have a lower life expectancy than their parents. Think that’s not impacted by the recession? I bought a box of Kashi cereal for .29 at Jewel last week. Six feet away, boxes of Frosted Flakes were two for .00.

The long-terms effects of the recession are problematic, but you don’t have to read 30-year projection reports to see the impact of The Great Recession. It’s happening right now. It can hurt now and later.

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