27 Jul Sixteen million American children will go hungry this summer

Students show off their donations at a Rio Hondo Elementary School food drive in Downey, CA.

We live in a country that throws away 40% of its food, but for many children growing up in low-income households, school meals are their most nutritious and reliable food source. According to a brief from the Food Research and Action Center, “The many reports from teachers and child care providers about the trepidation students feel about going home at the end of the week to empty cupboards and how ravenous they are on Monday morning … suggest that the official data may well understate the depth of childhood food insecurity.”

Summer is the worst time for kids who don’t get enough to eat at home. With schools closed, USDA-funded summer programs only feed about one in five poor children. Judy Pasternak, writing for AOL News, says, “The children caught in the gap will likely spend the next few months cadging leftovers from neighbors, chowing down on cheap junk, lining up with their families at food banks that are already overmatched, or simply learning to live with a constant headache, growling stomach and chronic fatigue. When school rolls around again in the fall, they will be less healthy and less ready to learn than their peers.”

On July 15th, the House Education and Labor Committee passed the Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act. In addition to tasking the Department of Agriculture with the development of strict nutrition standards for food in school vending machines and cafeterias, the bill increases the number of children eligible for free or subsidized meals.

The bill, which allocates $8 billion over 10 years, still has to get through the House and Senate. Until then, all of us who get enough to eat have a golden opportunity to practice responsibility, caring, and citizenship.

What you can do:

Find your local food bank here to learn about volunteer opportunities, donation needs, and how you might organize a food drive or volunteer field trip in your area. It may be too late to organize for this summer, but hunger isn’t just a summer problem. You can organize food drives for winter and spring vacations too.

You might also consider integrating volunteer and donation work into your curriculum or current service learning programs.

For 1st-6th graders: Click here for a craft project in which kids design and hang mobiles that will raise awareness and add some pizzazz to your food drive.

For high school students: Check out this video campaign highlighting the issue of food deserts (the lack of fresh, healthy food in urban neighborhoods). These videos were made by teens in Los Angeles, and they might inspire a similar project for high school kids in your area. (For more info on how these students “greened” their food desert, click here.)

For the super-energetic and motivated: There’s always the school garden project. School gardens can grow edible food, but they can also help kids develop healthier relationships with food and a greater appreciation of their connection to the Earth and its resources. If you don’t know where to start, check out this site from the horticultural experts at Texas A&M and this one from the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Anthony Baer
  • Don Kowalski
    Posted at 09:28h, 12 August Reply

    Give me a break. With the over generous food stamp program, no kid is going hungry. What are the parents eating? Do you really think they are not feeding their kids? This is load of crap!

  • Jeremy Resnick
    Posted at 10:24h, 12 August Reply

    Mr. Kowalski, on what evidence do you base your “load of crap” argument? Do you have any data to back you up? Have you clicked on the links and read the articles and reports? Are you suggesting that these people are liars?

  • Dennis Stokes
    Posted at 08:11h, 13 August Reply

    My question would be why these kids go hungry? We spend Billions on illegals each year that could go to help these people. We spend billions on prisoners, life long criminals who have TV, state of the art work out equipment, air conditioned cells, and great food. We spend millions on snail darters, and the flow rate of Ketchup, but these kids go hungry??? I feel like you can see where I am going with this.
    Things are bad because we have idiots in office on both sides who have made us into an entitlement society. Lots of these folks are illegal lots just do not want to work many should never have had kids… Not the kids fault true but where does it end???? We send billions over sea’s helping folks who want to kill us, should we not take care of things here first???? These kids do not have to go hungry, we could feed the whole U.S. for what Government wastes. I wonder how many kids the NAACP or La raza give to these families…maybe alot I do not know I know La raza has a wealth building program I wonder whose wealth it is building. We have free everything here so why do these kids go hungry???

  • lononc
    Posted at 19:27h, 18 August Reply

    I’m sure there’s research supporting that there are many children going hungry. My question is “do we know WHY these children are hungry?” If we have so much money and so much food to waste, then there’s something seriously disfunctional in our system. There’s some fact in all what has been said because I’ve seen it. There are people making poor choices for themselves that affects their children. If we try to control who has children and who doesn’t, then we get into another level of government control–that’s scary. The too short-lived pleasure of making a baby is a far cry away from the real challenges of caring for the child. Promiscuity is encouraged in all our mass media. On the other hand, you may be burned at the stake if you promote abstinence, self-control, critical thinking, accountability. It takes no thought to make a baby, but lots of mental, physical, and spiritual energy is expended to manage another’s life from birth to adulthood. We all may bear some responsibility for this social and economic problem. Now let’s deal with the root of the problems and not just the symptoms. Character Counts!

  • sylvia bolton
    Posted at 04:41h, 19 August Reply

    I agree with Dennis. Our government does nt know when to stop spending our money on the illegals, congressional pay raises, and much more that we don’t even know about.

  • GLR
    Posted at 09:12h, 19 August Reply

    WOW, I’m surprised at the lack of compassion some people are showing in these comments.

    I’m with Iononc – too many adults make bad decisions, one which is the choice to have children. If you can barely take care of yourself, you shouldn’t bring another being into the world. On the other hand, unexpected obstacles can happen and affect one’s ability to properly care for a child…and that person should do whatever she or he can do to survive. A compassionate society would have a system in place to help that family but also promote dignity and independence. It’s a tough issue….

    I don’t know what the qualifications are for food stamps but is it possible there are people who are within a low income range but not low enough to qualify?

    Stop with the illegals scapegoat. Whilst I want people here legally, does anyone know WHY people are desperate to escape their poverty in other parts of the world, even if it means the risk of entering illegally? Like what Iononc says – let’s get to THE ROOT OF SOCIAL PROBLEMS!! They are MAN-MADE!

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