When many people think about childhood hunger, their minds depict images of starving children in third-world countries. Unfortunately, childhood hunger is a global issue. It affects children in countries of all income levels, including the United States. In fact, 1 in 5 children in the United States faces hunger every day. Food insecurity is a major epidemic that many Americans face, unable to provide themselves and their families with food of valuable nutrition.
For many families, the choice must be made to pay a bill or buy groceries, leaving food substance scarce in their homes. While in other countries hunger is caused by a lack of access to food, in the United States hunger is a result of poverty. According to the national organization Feeding America, there is some level of food insecurity in every county and district in the country.
School is oftentimes a saving grace for children of food-insecure households. Approximately 21 million students receive free or discounted breakfast and lunches through their schools, providing them with meals throughout the day. However, when summer comes and school is out for 3 months, these same children are forced back into hunger.
Educators report that 3 out of 4 American children are coming to school without access to adequate food at home. These children are having difficulties learning in school without proper nutrition. They are also more inclined to skip classes and receive poor grades as a result of medical conditions associated with hunger - like headaches, anxiety, and depression. Furthermore, children who face hunger at home tend to struggle socially, making them less inclined to want to come to school.
Fortunately, there are government-assisted programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - or SNAP - that provides assistance to low-income families and individuals to purchase nutritional foods. However, many families of food insecurity in the United States are not qualified to receive help from these programs. There is a large gap of families who are above the minimum household income line for assistance programs like SNAP but who still struggle to make ends meet when it comes to affording food for their children.
The figures for childhood hunger are terrifying and, unfortunately, not well known. Advocating and volunteering for organizations that aim to end childhood hunger once and for all is a small step that leaves a huge impact. It is an issue that hits close to home for most Americans when it shouldn’t have to.