Remember those commercials? You know, the ones where they ask you to donate 5 cents a day or some other pennies on the dollar amount to help a starving child in a third world country? Each child’s cute and slightly dirty face smiling at you, invoking you to send him or her those pennies so they could afford bread. I know I remember them, and even at a young age I remember feeling sorry for the kids I saw on TV during the summer months when I was out of school and had more freedom to watch whatever channel I wanted. ‘How sad, they don’t get lunch every day like I do’ I would think as my mom took me to the local library to get my free summer lunch before we went to the public pool to cool off. The irony of the situation was lost on me until now.
I was fortunate growing up. I can’t deny that. I had parents who both were able to keep semi-steady middle class jobs, and when they did struggle to make ends meet, I was fed through the free and reduced school lunch program, fresh vegetables from our garden, and my Dad’s yearly deer hunting kill. I never went a day feeling hungry, or lived through the anxiety of not knowing where my next meal was coming from. Other kids in the US today, are not so fortunate.
Childhood hunger in the United States is a serious issue, and after the recent recession it is only getting worse. 1 in 5 kids deal with food insecurity in the United States, in big cities, small towns, and everywhere in between, and for some reason we aren’t outraged.
Hunger should be easy to solve, a no brainer. We have plenty of food, plenty of opportunities, and plenty of wide spread programs to suppress it. However, more and more families are lining up at food banks, applying for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and signing their child up for free and reduced school lunch.
So, how do we help feed these hungry families? Our neighbors? Our friends?
Well, first, we as citizens have to be aware of the problem in order to address the solutions. We need to be talking about childhood hunger in our country, we need to read about it in newspapers, see it on billboards, hear about it on the radio, and yes, even on television.
Second, we need to stop stigmatizing those who are struggling. There is a disproportionately large amount of families who are eligible for benefits such as SNAP, WIC (SNAP for Women, Infants, and Children), or free and reduced school lunch that are embarrassed to sign up, even though the programs are there to help them get back on their feet.
Finally, we need to tell our stories and advocate to end childhood hunger in our neighborhoods, our cities, our states, and our country. Because the more we talk about ending childhood hunger, the more we share our stories of struggles and successes, and the more we donate to and volunteer at our local food banks: the louder we become to the lawmakers that establish the funds for programs like free and reduced school lunches and SNAP. If we all agree childhood hunger is a bad thing: what choice will they have when it comes to further funding programs that help end it?
So, my challenge to you Collective Lifestyle readers: share a story you might have in the comment section about a time when you or someone you know struggled with hunger insecurity. It doesn’t have to be perfectly composed, and it won’t be used anywhere but on this site. It will merely be a way for us to start talking about this problem, so we can start ending it.
Photo Source: davidmixner.com