Though you may know that hunger is a problem in America (and globally, though this post focuses specifically on hunger in the US), you may have a million questions about it—or you may not know where to begin asking questions. And that's totally fair; if hunger in America was an easy problem with a simple solution, no one would ever go hungry.
This blog is intended to help answer some of the questions you have as well as the ones you haven't even thought to ask, providing you with knowledge about America's hunger problem and specifically how it affects children.
We've also included a section that discusses what you can do to help solve America's hunger problem. It might seem like one person can't make much of an impact on such a widespread struggle, but if you can help even one child living with hunger, you're making a truly important difference.
What is the hunger problem?
Let's start here: defining the hunger issue in America. People have been grappling with hunger for centuries upon centuries, but hunger got much worse in America after the recession beginning in 2008 with the financial crisis. Many lost their jobs and houses within just a few weeks, some even days, and many more found themselves unemployed, homeless or both within the next months and years.
The negative effects of the financial crisis also largely impacted lower middle class and impoverished people, making life even more difficult for those who were already struggling to make ends meet. From this, the hunger problem grew and continued to grow.
As of 2015, when widespread surveys were last conducted by Feeding America, 42 million Americans lived in hunger—that's over 13% of the population, or 1 in every 8 people. In 2009, right in the worst part of the recession, 1 in 6 people went hungry.
Now due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, more than 54 million people may experience food insecurity in 2020, including a potential 18 million children.
To define hunger, it is not the urge for a snack or the stomach rumbling before a meal that many feel every day. Hunger is the ongoing inability to eat nutritious food in a quantity that sufficiently sustains an expected level of activity. Simply put, it is not being able to eat enough healthy, nourishing food to provide the energy to go about your day. Because of different levels of activity and different bodies, hunger can be defined differently for each person, but if someone isn't sure when or what they're going to be able to eat next, that can generally be defined as hunger.
Why is nutrition specified? Isn't any food good food?
It absolutely would seem so, but often the least expensive food is also the least nutritious. Fast foods, processed goods and large-scale manufactured items are almost always the cheapest and least nutritious options, but for those struggling with hunger, a meal made of any of these is better than not eating. This is a very serious problem for families with young children, as nutrition is most important for those growing and developing.
How are children affected?
Children are more likely to struggle with hunger than adults, and their hunger also has graver consequences. No one should live with hunger, but children who get less energy and nutrition in their formative years suffer long-term consequences.
While 1 in 8 Americans struggle with hunger, Feeding America has determined that the number for children is 1 in 6. These children are more likely to be hospitalized at a young age, develop conditions like anemia and asthma, have stunted growth and experience other health problems.
Their health isn't the only thing affected, either. Children struggling with hunger are more likely to repeat a year of elementary school, putting them behind their peers, to experience developmental impairments related to speech and motor skills and to have more social and behavioral difficulties.
Because hunger severely impacts children's ability to grow and develop, it impacts the rest of their life.
What areas are most affected?
Childhood hunger in the US isn't concentrated to one area—children live in food-insecure households in almost every American community. But, that does not mean that hunger affects each community equally. Certain areas are much more affected than others.
Many believe that hunger is only an issue in urban communities, but that is far from the truth. Though every urban area in the US struggles with childhood hunger, many rural communities are deeply affected.
The map below shows the areas that struggle most with childhood hunger, many of which have food banks that we are truly honored to partner with. The goal, for That's Caring and for many other organizations dedicated to solving childhood hunger.
What are food banks and others doing to help?
Food banks provide much needed nutrition for people struggling with hunger and also organize fundraisers, programs, campaigns and events that all have the same goal: solving hunger in America.
One of the kinds of programs that food banks organize is a weekend bag program, which is the program that That's Caring gifts support. The National School Lunch Program (NSLP), which is funded by the US government, ensures that children are fed at least one nutritious meal every day during the school week. However, it cannot feed them over the weekend. Weekend bag programs send one child from each family struggling with hunger home with a bag full of nutritious food to sustain them and their siblings over the weekend, until they go back to school and receive meals from NSLP. Many food banks across the country run this weekend bag program.
We are incredibly honored to partner with these amazing food banks, and aim to work with more in the coming years:
- Northern Illinois Food Bank
- Food Bank of NE Georgia
- North Texas Food Bank
- LA Regional Food Bank
- Food Bank of Eastern Michigan
- Capital Area Food Bank
- Community Food Bank of New Jersey
- Second Harvest Food Bank Charlotte
- Low Country Food Bank, Charleston
- Community Harvest of NE Indiana
- Eastern Illinois Food Bank
- Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin
- Food Bank of Northern Indiana
- Peoria Area Food Bank
What can you do?
Believe me, we know what it's like to feel like you can't do anything to help the millions of children living in hunger in America. That exact feeling is part of what started That's Caring. But there are truly so many ways to help.
To get started, you can always donate supplies, money or simply volunteer your time at any of the food banks above or the ones in your community. There is no food bank that will turn down a donation or a volunteer.
If you want to get more people involved, any business or organization can help make a difference. If you want to have an outing, a bonding activity, a family event or something similar, you can do any of the below things and your impact will be felt.
- Volunteering together at a food bank as a company outing
- Having a food drive
- Hosting a fundraiser
- Donating a portion of proceeds on certain items or on certain dates
Additionally, you can buy from companies and organizations that are helping solve hunger. That's Caring is not the only organization who recognizes the severity of the hunger problem in America; Half United is another example. You can find all sorts of products for sale whose proceeds go toward solving hunger from various companies. If you shop smart, you can make an impact.
Where can I learn more?
The information in the article comes from Feeding America, and on their website, you'll find some of the most reliable, up-to-date and accurate information about American hunger as well as numerous ways you can help. Again, no matter how small your contribution, if you can make sure that even one meal is provided for a child struggling with hunger, then you're making an impact.
We'd like to thank Feeding America for not only much of the information in this blog, but also for the incredible work they do. You can learn more about them at feedingamerica.org.