Growing up there were things I “wanted” but nothing that I ever “needed”. I wanted a second helping of spaghetti at dinner. I wanted extra hot fudge on my ice cream for dessert, but I was never in need of any food to eat. Many people are aware of hunger outside of the United States; however, we are often unaware that it’s an issue in our own backyard.
Over 20 million students are entitled to free or reduced breakfasts and lunches in public schools across the U.S. These are often their only meals and during the summer, these kids are even less likely to eat regularly. In addition to the obvious health issues associated with hunger, there is also a stigma that surrounds receiving free or reduced meals at school; which I have witnessed first-hand.
A student I worked with this past year received free lunch daily. He was the youngest of four boys and came to school hungry almost every day. He went to the nurse numerous times throughout the year due to stomach pains and he ate everything that was given to him, even the vegetables, a rarity for any 4th grade student!
One afternoon, I overheard another student ask him why his mom never makes him lunch. I watched his face drop as he quietly responded, “My brothers eat all our food.” While the other student was not fazed by the conversation, this child was visibly embarrassed and uncomfortable.
This type of embarrassment is not uncommon for students who come from struggling families and can lead to serious anxiety. It also represents another reason we need to address the issue of childhood hunger in our own neighborhoods and schools. In a country where 1 in 5 students live in households that do not have consistent access to food, it is time to take a stand and put an end to childhood hunger.
Want to help? Here are some ways that you can work to end child hunger in your area:
- Donate any extra food you have in your home.
- Work with your community to start a community garden that provides fresh fruit and vegetables to local community centers or families in need.
- Volunteer at local food pantries, kitchens and centers.
- Start a food drive in your school or community.
- Educate others about childhood hunger, healthy eating and summer meal programs.
Check out these awesome websites that are working to fight childhood hunger in America for more ways to get involved!
Today’s guest blog comes from Samantha Hanson. She is a graduate student from New Jersey studying psychology. Currently, she works as a teaching aide in an elementary school. She works with Born This Way Foundation on a variety of issues including the Emotion Revolution.