Kalena Thomhave

Kalena Thomhave is a writing fellow at The American Prospect. Her email is kthomhave@prospect.org.

Recent Articles

On Summer Vacation and Hungry

The school lunch program has gone a long way to reduce childhood hunger across the country. What happens during the summer?

Cierra45/iStock by Getty Of the 22 million students who receive free or reduced-price lunch at school, only 14.1 percent are served summer meals. Summer remains the worst time for children’s hunger. This article is a preview of the Fall 2019 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . It’s a muggy August afternoon as I meander through a maze of apartment homes in Ypsilanti, Michigan, to find where a group of kids will be eating a free meal. Near the leasing office of the apartment complex, Sycamore Meadows, I spy a small tent. Bright orange yoga mats, trimmed to fit children, lie under it. Some of the children those mats are intended for are riding tiny bikes in the parking lot, mostly spinning in circles. This is one of thousands of sites in communities across the country where children can eat for free during the summer. Hunger during the school year has largely (though not entirely) been addressed thanks to the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). But...

Poverty Doesn’t Sell, but We Wrote About It Anyway

Ten of the best stories on inequality we’ve published over the past two years

M. Spencer Green/Associated Press Those living on the edge can testify to the inadequacy of public benefits and the stinginess of the so-called welfare state for millions of Americans, many of them children. For the past two years as a Prospect writing fellow, I’ve carved out a beat on poverty and inequality, writing about marginalized populations and overlooked issues. Stories on inequality are depressing. They don’t sell ads. But in an era where the chasm between rich and poor is only widening, and wages have stagnated for decades, this is the stuff we need to talk about. Thanks to the Prospect for letting me—a person from the working class—write about issues close to me, and issues I think are important. Here are ten of my favorite stories I’ve written, either because of the people I spoke with or the topics that were highlighted. “ Could California End Childhood Poverty? ” California, as far as I know, is the only state whose department of...

Trump Two-fer: One New Policy Will Attack Both Immigrants and the Safety Net

The new “public charge” rule could affect more than 20 million immigrants.

President Trump’s attacks on the safety net continue, and all the better for him if he can disenfranchise multiple marginalized populations in one fell swoop. Today the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) finalized its “public charge” rule, which targets both welfare recipients and immigrants. The rule will both limit immigration and discourage current immigrants—even those who shouldn’t have anything to fear from the rule—from using public-assistance programs. Current policy allows the government to consider whether an immigrant is at risk of being “dependent” on the government when determining their eligibility for a visa or green card. Under the current “public charge” test, officials may consider the use of cash assistance, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (which very few families use) or the use of long-term institutional care, when weighing an immigrant’s eligibility for legal status. The Trump...

How California Left Undocumented Immigrants Out of Its EITC Expansion

America’s mega-state had the chance to mitigate the poverty of undocumented immigrants. It chose not to.

It costs a lot to be poor: There’s the cost of transportation to get to a low-paying job, for instance, or the cost of health care when that low-paying job doesn’t provide benefits. The assistance from the social safety net might help a little, but for the most part those programs don’t meet the need. Yet it is even more exorbitant to be poor and undocumented. Undocumented immigrants typically work in unstable, low-wage employment, where they face greater threats of wage theft and exploitation—and don’t receive help from the safety net at all. Many, however, are paying taxes that help fund those programs, as Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pointed out on Tuesday, tweeting : “[F]or the last time: people who are undocumented pay taxes! Public goods aren’t ‘gifts’ to immigrants—they pay for your kids’ schooling too.” Rosalba, who immigrated to San Diego nearly 17 years ago from Mexico, is undocumented and...

The Trump Administration Plans to Kick Three Million Off Food Stamps

Once more bypassing Congress to stick it to the safety net, and lying about its intentions to boot

The Trump administration has shown that when it fails to pass priority agenda items legislatively, it will push forward through other means, while ignoring Congress. The regulatory process has already been used to introduce restrictions to the nation’s largest nutrition program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly called food stamps. In December, the administration signaled that it would push unemployed and underemployed people from high-unemployment areas off of the program, a policy rejected in last year’s farm bill. In May, it published a notice that it would alter how the poverty line is adjusted for inflation—making SNAP benefits smaller. This week, the administration is attempting another regulatory change—a policy that also failed to pass in the 2018 farm bill—that would have the effect of kicking 3.1 million people off of the program, by restricting state flexibilities meant to ease the SNAP application process and...