A Place at the Table for Childhood Hunger in America
It’s a crisis happening in our own backyards, yet most people are not even aware of it—or understand its implications to the future of our country.
One in five children in our own nation go hungry. For one in five kids in America, food is a constant worry. Every day more than 16 million children don’t know where there next meal will come from. Their daily struggle not only impairs their physical health, but their mental development.
A year back, when I started as the Executive Director of the Arby’s Foundation, I found myself seeking the evidence around this astonishing statistic. The mission of the Arby’s Foundation is to work to end childhood hunger in America. Fresh on the job, I had a hard time understanding what “childhood hunger” looked like in our nation. Certainly, I had seen images of starvation halfway around the globe, but hunger in my own country? My own community? What did it look like? Why, in a nation notorious for its abundance of food, is any child going hungry?
After meeting with prominent governors and other political figures, hearing from skilled teachers and anti-hunger experts, it was a letter I received from a childhood friend that delivered my answer. My friend—acknowledging the work I had done with Share our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign—decided to share her own struggles with hunger as a child. It changed me.
Here was a person with whom I walked the halls every day in middle school and high school, and I had no idea—no clue she was starving. In her letter, she wrote about the most vulnerable and scary times of her youth, going days with no more than a slice of toast.
That day she closed the letter with: “I know how hard it is, and I know how much a child's instinct is to keep it a secret.” When I read these words, I knew I had to stop looking for it. If I couldn't see it when it walked next to me every day, I wasn’t going to see it now.
Hunger exists in every community, and the fight to end it looks differently in every neighborhood. What hunger looks like today for our nation’s future is what we should focus on looking for. Kids who are hungry are more at risk for health problems, delayed cognitive development, and ultimately hindered academic performance. This crisis is not just an appetite issue. It’s an education issue; a health issue; a future workforce issue.
We cannot afford to let any of our nation’s children grow up hungry. The Arby’s Foundation is working closely with Share our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign to lead the effort to end childhood hunger in America. But we cannot do this alone. We all need to come together and lead this fight.
Childhood hunger may not have a face, but it does have a voice. My friend shared her story, and that is one voice for the movement. And you are citizen with a voice: You can end childhood hunger.
This Holiday season is a perfect time to share your voice around the dinner table, and talk about this unspoken problem. Here are some ideas:
Set a chair at your Thanksgiving table that is empty to symbolize the child who goes hungry every day in America.
Visit NoKidHungry.org and sign the pledge to end childhood hunger.
Find your local food bank and ask about volunteering to help kids and families during the holidays when school is out.
Illustration by Corinna Loo
The Message-Maker: On the Ground with Baltimore Street Artist GAIA Internationally acclaimed artist uses painting to reach his city.
Buckets are the New Pumpkins Do you annually waste nourishing squash flesh on bourgeois porch displays? Jettison the traditional jack-o’-lantern with this one simple trick
Watch Out for the Witch Flick A guide to the positive, negative, and complicated depictions of women as witches in movies, warts and all
The Not-So-Mad Science of Head Transplants We may soon be able to successfully graft a human head onto a different body, but is it worth the cost in terms of dollars and ethics?
A Friendly Game of International Border Subversion Activists in Morocco and Algeria hope to play a volleyball game using the countries’ mutual border as a net
13 Spooky Sites That Redefine the Term Skeleton Structure Humans have been using bones as building materials for centuries While world religions and ancient history are replete with alternative burial solutions, some of the most mesmerizing are found in ossuaries
Teacher’s Little Reading Helper Know any child iPad addicts who should be learning how to read instead of playing Candy Crush? Try Bam Boomerang
How Elves and Serpents are Saving Iceland for Future Generations Most Iceland residents believe in magic to some degree, and it’s helping to preserve the environment, foster community … and rake in tourism dollars
5 Tales of Halloween Heartbreak A conversation about growing up in the U.S. without celebrating national dress-up-and-get-free-candy day
Thomas Nestor Jr. Joins the Ranks Read more ›