If you haven’t experienced it first hand, the idea of truly “going hungry” is hard to imagine. And the idea of “ending hunger” can sound ambiguous and lofty, like a cliche answer at a beauty pageant. However, living without sufficient food is a reality for many, and you don’t have to look far to find people affected by hunger. In the US, an estimated 13.1 million children don’t have access to enough food. For them, ending hunger isn’t lofty; it’s life-saving. Many organizations are already finding ways to combat child hunger. Here’s how you can help work towards making sure no kids are going hungry.
A new study on food insecurity in children, published in the latest issue of the science journal Child Development, found significant correlation to child hunger and a child’s performance in school. That in itself may not be new information to you. What may be surprising is the longer-term effects the study found that hunger has on kids’ development. The study found experiencing food insecurity in their first five years of life makes children more likely to be behind socially, emotionally, and to a degree, cognitively when they start kindergarten.
Anna Johnson, one of the study’s authors, tells NPR, “kids who enter the kindergarten door behind, tend to stay behind. They do not catch up." Johnson found that kindergarteners who experienced food insecurity early in life were also more likely to have behavior issues at school, being more hyperactive or throwing tantrums.
Even if the children themselves are getting enough to eat, growing up in a household that experiences food insecurity impacts kids. Johnson tells NPR that previous studies show when parents are hungry, it affects how they interact with their kids. Hungry parents are more likely to be irritable or distracted and less likely to be engaged with their children.
No family should have to worry about where their next meal is coming from. No child’s education should have to suffer because they haven’t had enough to eat. Here are 10 ways you can help combat child hunger and give kids a stronger start in school.
1. Support Programs Combating Hunger That Would Be Affected By Potential Budget Cuts
Despite statements made by Mick Mulvaney, White House Director of the Office of Management and Budget, hunger affects students' performance in school. In the above clip, Mulvaney is referencing programs like the Child and Adult Care Food Program, which serves food and snacks to an average of 3.7 million children every day. You can show support for the CACFP, and other programs affected by Trump's budget cut proposal, by contacting your representatives, citing facts on who they are hurting when they make cuts to these programs.
2. See Where Your Representatives Stand on Food Stamps
Programs like SNAP and WIC offer government-provided assistance to families who might otherwise not be able to afford food. However, providing food stamps has become a partisan issue. In Florida, House Republicans passed a bill that would deny 229,000 Floridians food stamps. The idea of the 'welfare queen' was popularized by Ronald Reagan and has since been cited by the GOP as reason to cut funding to programs that support low-income families.
If you agree that these programs provide essential needs to children and individuals who would otherwise go without, make sure your representative knows. Check vote tallies in the House and Senate. Look into your local reps stance on food stamps.
3. Pay Off School Lunch Debt
When students have an unpaid lunch balance, it can result in them having to return their hot lunch. You can help ensure students at your local school get the meal they need by paying off lunch debt. Writer Ashley Ford has inspired thousands of dollars of donation with her tweet. Contact schools in your district to how you can contribute to unpaid lunch accounts.
4. Donate to Local Food Banks
5. Volunteer at Local Food Banks
6. Put Surplus Food to Use
The USDA estimates the 30-40 percent of available food goes to waste. That's roughly 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food waste. This fact sheet from Youth Service America shares a dozen different ways you can put extra food to good use. Whether it's getting involved in a community garden or starting a Campus Kitchen at your school, we can all do our part to make sure food ending up in hungry stomachs and not in the trash.
7. Donate to 'No Kid Hungry'
8. Donate to 'Help the Children'
9. Donate to 'Feed the Children'
10. Vote for Candidates Dedicated to Ending Hunger
Do your current representatives support programs that provide food to those in need? If not, make sure they know they don't have your vote come reelection. Like the Vote to End Hunger campaign during last election cycle says, ending hunger should not be a partisan issue.