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Millions of American teens are at risk of starving, and some are trading sex for foodby Circa News

"When you're selling your body, it's more in disguise. Like, if I had sex with you, you have to buy me dinner tonight."

Anonymous boy in North Carolina

Millions of American teenagers are at risk of running out of food or don't have access to affordable, healthy food.

Some of them are so desperate, they're selling their bodies and committing crimes to go to jail to ensure regular meals,  according to an Urban Institute study.

Breaking down the numbers

The study found at least 6.8 million people were "food insecure," meaning they didn't have reliable access to affordable, healthy food. Another 4 million were in "marginally food secure" households, where the "threat of running out of food is real."

All of the 10 communities surveyed in focus groups mentioned teens using sex to pay for meals. Eight of the 10 mentioned criminal acts, ranging from shoplifting to drug dealing, to pay for food. And widespread scrutiny around surrounding hunger often prevented teens from opening up.

"It might not be the best food, might not be the best place to be, but it's a roof over your head."

Anonymous Portland girl

Some students deliberately failed classes because summer school guaranteed two meals a day. Others would pull fire alarms or commit other petty crimes to end up in prison. 

Why don't they get jobs? They can't

Teens also "overwhelmingly" preferred earning money through a normal job, according to the study, but job prospects were scarce in their neighborhoods, especially as employers continue to emphasize past work experience.

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