**Underlined words contain clickable links that will take you to articles, sources, or information about how to find help. Click them for more information. **
In the US, more than 16 Million children face hunger every year.
I can tell you that being hungry as an American child is a strange experience. Food. Is. Everywhere. You walk through a world as though separated by a glass wall. You alone know that you are hungry. You know that asking for food is not allowed. You can dream, you can obsess, you can watch, but you can’t have it. “In the U.S., hunger is caused by the prevalence of poverty, not food scarcity. Stable food access is often blocked for low-income families that struggle to balance the need for food with other basic necessities.”
Hungry children can look ‘normal.’ If they are getting some food they may not even look thin. They may look ‘ok’ to your eyes while suffering daily. They may eat poor quality, high-calorie foods that are over-processed. Nutritious foods in stable supply make all the difference. Children who experience mild-moderate hunger are known to suffer long-term chronic illness, dental problems, and psychological effects after prolonged hunger.
There is a video that emotionally illustrates what life is like for hungry children in cities. A little girl is dressed poorly and stands on a city street. People pass her by, even tell her to leave. When she is clean and nicely dressed, everyone tries to help her.
The best I could do when I was young was to stay home. If I was out, I pretended to be fine while I longed to eat a slice of pizza at the end of a ball game or to join in at a neighbors party where I could see tables loaded with snacks. Being offered food was magic.
At the grocery store when I was 10, I had only a few dollars. I tried to buy some bread and peanut butter. When the total rang up to more than I had, my brother burst into tears because we were going to have to put something back. That’s when a stranger offered to pay for the lot, and we were stunned. We were able to take all the food and keep our money. We took the food home, then went back to the store to buy more things, amazed that someone would help us like that.
Right now, with the majority of children at home full-time, I worry about how many of them are missing meals. I live in a state, a county, and a city where programs exist that help people feed their children, without question. We access some of the programs because we qualify for them, and because they help us focus on other things (like making sure we can keep the heat on through the coming winter, and keeping the kids busy while we can’t do any of our normal activities). It also helps the programs get funding if they are utilized. I hope that other families are able to access the food they need, but I see barriers: Do they have time to go pick up meals, time to cook the food, a car to access it, can they even find a program near them?
I never want anyone to be hungry in our country when so much food goes to waste. Some schools are now packaging leftovers as ready-heat meals for students to take home, but many times when I was dumpster-diving I found piles of perfectly good food just tossed into the trash. There were fresh fruits and vegetables as well as packaged foods that are, thankfully, donated to food banks more nowadays. It is such a shame.
I decided to write this today in hopes that if you are hungry you might find what you need here. If anyone is hungry, write to me and I will try to find you help. The following is a list of programs that are currently running, nationwide:
USDA Farm to Family Offers a box of fresh farm food delivered to families weekly.
Free Lunch Program offers two meals a day for all children under the age of 18 and has been extended until June of 2021.
Food Banks are feeding families, despite the pandemic. Demand is higher than ever. If you need food, follow the hyperlink above to find a food bank that can help. If you don’t need food, send up gratitude, and consider donating your time or money to one of the ones near you.
P-EBT Is a federal program that issues food stamps to families that qualify for free or reduced lunches at school. This is a debit card you can use for food at any grocery store.