It is a mystery: Why are there are still hungry children in a world full of food? Though many Americans thinking about “world hunger” tend to picture African babies with bloated stomachs, the sad fact is that between 12 and 14 million children in the United States are hungry, “food insecure” or at risk for hunger.
The problem of food-insecure American children is massive and widespread, affecting more than 1 in 10 households. Food insecurity – lacking access to “enough healthy food to thrive” – is even worse for children in households headed by single mothers (3 in 10) and those at or below the poverty line (almost 4 in 10).
Various non-profit groups, university researchers and think tanks – along with agencies of the federal government, particularly the Census Bureau and the Department of Agriculture – study and report on hunger in America. Statistics are important, as we need to know the nature of a problem in order to solve it. However, let us never forget these numbers represent those most vulnerable: children.
In fact, far too many are young children in their most important, formative years. Almost a quarter (23.1% according to the Census Bureau) of all food-insecure homes have children under 6 years old. The impact of hunger on a child’s growth and development – mental, physical, emotional, spiritual – is profound. Our collective commitment to helping these children must be equally powerful.
Our mission is straightforward: feeding hungry children. The benefits are enormous to our country as a whole when we help at-risk children avoid the additional colds, illnesses, headaches, infections and fatigue that occur in food-insecure homes. In a time when so much confusion reigns in discussions of health care, food safety and obesity, it is abundantly clear that feeding the hungry, and helping those at risk, is an excellent investment for the future.
Without adequate nutrition, children have more mental health issues in addition to the physical ailments. They also experience a greater number of hospitalizations and costly interventions, many of which would be unnecessary with proper nutrition. Helping children before these conditions develop can mean dramatic healthcare savings for society as a whole.
Feeding children is good because it creates other good results, and there are other arguments one can make for feeding hungry children. This brings up a very important question, one that everyone should consider carefully:
Isn’t it enough to know that children are hungry, and that there is a way to help them, for us to take action? Do we really need any other motivation to know that feeding them is the right thing to do?