That means that right now, there are kids in our own neighborhoods who don’t know when they’ll have their next meal.
Each year, 16 million children struggle with hunger – that’s the population of Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia and Chicago combined – and 11 million children are not eating breakfast daily.
That means a whole lot of money – around the tune of $1 billion – is sitting unused on Washington’s table.
Again. Mind. Blown.
The most I ever worry about food is when deciding what to make for dinner. Go ahead and scoff. I am, because it’s a fortunate first world problem to have, not kids going three or more days without eating a meal right here in the United States.
Clay Dunn, Online Community Director at Share Our Strength, invited me to catch the premiere of Hunger Hits Home, a documentary aired earlier this evening on the Food Network that gives viewers a personal look at the crisis of childhood hunger in America through the eyes of parents, children, anti-hunger heroes, educators, and even a handful of politicians.
I had a chance to sit down with Clay to discuss social media for social good during BlogHer 2011, and the man is seriously committed to making an impact when it comes to ending childhood hunger by 2015. His motivation inspires. Why so many kids are going hungry is a big question, and it needs a huge answer.
Children shouldn’t have to worry if and when they’re going to eat, and whether or not their parents will be able to put food on the table or pack a lunch for school. They should be focused on learning, making friends, and having fun. Instead, they’re falling asleep at school, becoming aggressive and anxious, and spending way too much time in the nurse’s office with headaches and stomachaches.
Think about it. Kids in Africa go to school specifically to be fed a well-rounded meal, and here we are, a generally wealthy nation, and yet, our kids don’t have enough to eat. The USDA runs 15 different food programs on $105 billion, but not all states are stepping up and embracing the needy in their own communities.
That’s when local heroes with food banks and pantries and privately funded programs step up to give people a hand up and not a hand out, but even those gestures of extreme kindness can only go so far. Remember the Jamie Oliver Food Revolution smackdown in Los Angeles?
And sure, you’re thinking, hey, if one parent works, then there’s no reason his or her kids shouldn’t be eating a healthy, non-junky meal three times a day. But the reality is that people hovering near the poverty line can’t readily afford or even access fresh produce. A week’s worth of food stamps can amount to just one small bag of fresh vegetables, which isn’t going to work when stretching food stamps and getting less nutritious foodstuffs (think ramen noodles) in larger quantities with a much longer shelf life. Oftentimes, it has nothing to do with being uneducated or having cultural differences but is all about making that assistance reach as far as possible.
In fact, one of the most damaging effects of childhood hunger is how it affects parents. Just imagine how crappy you would feel if you knew you couldn’t give your kids nutritious meals or provide them with enough food to make sure they could eat every single day. Fail.
Share Our Strength and organizations around the country are working to end that negative stigma so parents will feel encouraged when asking for help and enabled to feed their children better.
Want to learn more? Join Share our Strength in the fight against childhood hunger at foodnetwork.com/hungry.
Photo credits: Share our Strength