Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Child Hunger Day

When you think of child hunger, you probably think of children in third world countries. But did you know that there are probably hungry children right in your neighborhood? They may not be literally dying of starvation the way the children in some other countries are, but they are malnourished, more so than any child should ever be in a country where people are paid millions of dollars a year to play sports or perform in movies. It is ridiculous and shameful that child hunger exists, right here and right now, in the USA.
Here are some surprising facts, brought to you from the organization Feeding Children Better.

1. 13 million USA children live in households where there is not enough food.

2. Although only 25% of the US population is children, in shelters and food lines children represent 40% of the people.

3. For families leaving welfare, 38% reported that they ran out of food and had no money to buy more.

4. Even mild malnutrition, experienced during childhood, causes developmental harm to children.

5. Hungry children have a harder time in school, have trouble paying attention, and are more likely to live in poverty as adults.

6. Hungry children experience more anxiety, depression, and illness than children who are well-nourished.

Many organizations in the USA are working to prevent child hunger. One of these is America's Second Harvest., which sponsors two programs specifically for USA children.

The Backpack Program
I used to work in a school where many of the children came from low-income homes and were on the Free Lunch Program. Often we had more free lunches than we needed at lunch time, because children would be absent or the place that sent us the lunches would send too many by accident. We would often let the children from the hungriest homes take the extra lunches home in their backpacks at the end of the day.
Second Harvest actually runs a program where school children can take food home! Participating schools distribute backpacks filled with nutritious, child-friendly food for children to take home on Fridays (when they won't be getting the usual school breakfast and lunch program because of the weekend) and over school vacations and holidays.

Kids Cafe
This program was created after a police officer found two little boys breaking into the kitchen of their housing project's community center, because they were hungry. Kids Cafe's are, essentially, special soup kitchens just for kids, where kids are welcome to come eat even if their parents aren't with them. This program is important especially because many children from low-income homes are alone at meal times, while their parents are at work or at other places. Kids Cafe programs also incorporate after-meal recreation and education programs, mentoring, tutoring, physical fitness, etc. Some locations have even started gardenswhere the children were able to plant and grow the food they could later eat! Kids Cafe programs operate in safe places, such as community centers, churches, after school programs, Boys And Girls Clubs, etc.

How can you help?
Well, consider donating either money, food, or your time, to a local Second Harvest location or other food bank.
You could also participate in a CROPWalk. CROPWalks are walk-a-thons that raise money to be donated to local food pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters, as well as to emergency food programs in other countries.
You can even sponsor a child in the USA... the same way you can sponsor children in other countries... through programs like Save The Children.

Please do what you can to end child hunger... because no child should have to be hungry!

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