Social media has become a mecca for individuals to post memes, articles, and petitions supporting their political or moral agendas. With Planned Parenthood being in the news and under fire by many as of late, personal social media pages are flooded with pro-life and responsible planning posts. A huge portion of our society rallies around this side of the issue, but then do not rally the same support for families and children after the choice of life is made. However, it is estimated that 7.9 million children are living in homes with inadequate food supply. They are called “food-insecure” homes. In other words, nearly 8 million kids are hungry and unfed on a very regular basis, here in our United States of America. Schools offer breakfast and lunch programs, but as anyone working in that environment will attest, those meals are far from filling or appropriately nutritious. When nutritious choices are offered, like salad bars at lunch, they often go untouched by hungry children who opt for more filling starchy items in hopes of staying full longer, possibly until the next morning at the school breakfast. School food programs do not cover evenings or weekends. Where are the people rallying support for this issue on social media? Where are the parents and community members fighting for hungry children? We see a huge fight to bring these children into the world, but yet, once they are here, we act as if they are no longer our problem or a part of a program that we shouldn’t have to support. If a life is truly precious then fighting for it should never end. If it truly is an ethical crime to turn your back on an unborn fetus, isn’t the same true for a child already living?
Childhood hunger is such a problem that the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that doctors ask questions specific to hunger during visits. Signs of malnutrition are not always obvious in children, therefore, sometimes the only way to bring it to the surface is to ask about it. The problems associated with malnutrition are more subtle in childhood but can become life threatening and financially burdensome with age. Studies show that families relying on food stamps eat about the same number of calories as an average, higher income American. The difference lies in the quality of the food. Poor families will consume more starchy food lacking vitamins and minerals for the purpose of filling them up for longer periods of time. Therefore, they are malnourished despite being an average or above average weight. Children in food-insecure homes will be sick more often and take longer to recover from illness. School teachers will notice a lack of focus and more behavioral and emotional problems among children living in a food insecure home. As these hungry children age, they are more likely to become diabetic, obese, have iron deficiencies, lower bone density, and adult cardiovascular disease. This issue deserves the attention of every citizen living in this wealthy country. Every mother, father, and caregiver should look upon hungry children and families with empathy and a desire to save a life, a precious life.
Pediatricians are now encouraged to have a list of resources for families readily available at every visit. As members of your own communities, take action and do the same. Research local food banks, meal programs, charity events, community meals, and shelters. Talk to your own children and get involved by volunteering your time and resources. Take to social media and bring attention to this problem that exists nation wide as well as in your own school district, in your town, and even on your own street. Take action and do not idly stand by as children and families suffer everyday. Below are some great resources, inspirations, and information regarding hunger in the United States of America and the world.
Reauthorization of Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act Vital to US Children
Poverty & Hunger
Find Your Local Food Bank