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A Peek Inside Childhood Hunger

October 8, 2011

According to the US Department of Agriculture in 2010 16.2 million children lived in food-insecure households in which children, along with adults, were food insecure.

Last night the three of us went to bed with our bellies full.  In seven years of  life my daughter has never experienced true hunger.  She will cry that she is hungry when dinner has taken a little too long to prepare or when she has slept in later than usual and wakes up to her tummy growling.  Even then, she knows that her request for breakfast will be fulfilled and that as the day progresses she will have snack, lunch, dinner and possibly dessert.   Yesterday as I left a visit heading back to the office all I could think about was the fact that I was “starving” but I wasn’t.  I hadn’t brought a lunch that day and immediately pulled over at the sight of a Food Truck.   My hunger was easily fulfilled.

My family doesn’t know what it is like really be hungry.  Each week we buy groceries.  If anything we have been learning how to shop so as not to be wasteful.  We don’t lose sleep wondering where our next meal is coming from and my child doesn’t go to school with an empty stomach each day expected to be able to focus and learn while there.

Although I have never experienced what it is to be hungry the notion of it is no stranger to my life.  My grandmother hoards food.  She has a refrigerator and freezer full of it.  I believe that this stems from her childhood one that was not plentiful.  For much of my childhood my mother, brother and I lived with her and through her we learned a thing or two about compassion and giving.  I will never forget Richard.  He has been the subject in one or two of my college papers and the reason why I did a presentation on Homelessness in my speech class and spent the day walking around with a “Will Work for Food Sign”.  He’s the reason why I often feel compelled to do something.

Richard didn’t have much.  He had a bicycle a backpack and a big heart.  My grandmother’s husband, at the time had met Richard and he and my grandmother decided to invite him into our home.  I have many memories of sitting at the dinner table watching Richard from across the table.  He would be smiling laughing and for a few moments looked like the happy person he probably was before he found himself living on the streets.  For a long time Richard would occasionally pop up for dinner until one day he stopped coming.  I always asked about him and to this day have never forgotten him.  In my own way I loved Richard.  He had come into our lives and into our home and because of him I was never the same.

I also remember another day, vaguely, but I remember.  I was upstairs in my room and heard the sound of voices outside.  I looked out the window and saw three strangers.  Their clothes were unclean and their faces looked tired.  I thought of Richard when I saw them.  My grandmother’s husband went into the garage and came out with a folding table and chairs.  He invited them to take a seat.  He and my grandmother served them a meal that day and sat with them listening to their stories.  Tears well up in my eyes as I think of this because on that day their meal was served to them and their story was heard.

That is kind of what much my childhood looked like.  My grandmother was over a homeless feeding ministry.  She and other church members would cook the most delicious meals and we would serve them.  She would go out and talk with her “guests” and pray with them.   She embraced the ones who needed to be embraced and when I was done serving I would prepare myself a plate and I would go sit with “our guests” too  some of them the same age as me.  My grandmother would obtain food and clothing donations and give but she would also  open her own refrigerator and her wallet in order to give.

I sit here and think about how my life has been shaped by that.  I think to myself  I want that for my own daughter.  She donates food and money and gifts but she has never looked hunger in the face.  She has never  knowingly come face to face with a person who didn’t know where their next meal was coming from.  A person who is getting by simply because of the kindness of strangers.

Also often overlooked are those that are hungry but not living in shelters or “on the streets”.  They are dressed, showered and walking along side us, nothing about their appearance suggesting they are hungry.  They are standing in line at the grocery store in front of us adding up the items in their shopping cart to see if they have enough money to buy food for their family. They are our neighbors, our coworkers and our children’s classmates.  Hunger is an epidemic that I believe could easily impact any one of us.  Sometimes things happen to us because of our choices but sometimes things happen to us for reasons beyond our control such as a job loss, family tragedy, medical bills, anything.   But really does any of that matter if someone is hungry and literally without food?

I am looking forward to tomorrow because it might be my daughter’s first real look at hunger aside from the “Feed the Children” commercials she occasionally sees on weekends.  Sesame Street will be airing Growing Hope Against Hunger.  The Little Miss will have an opportunity to see that this impacts all people, people just like us people, people in our very neighborhood.   For her it will be easier to relate to someone her age sharing their story.  It will also be a reminder that all of us can do something even at the age of seven.

I hope you all will join me in watching Growing Hope Against Hunger and that it will be a catalyst for us to begin to have conversations with our littles about hunger and challenges that people are facing right now.  Through the show we will learn ways to do so in a manner that children understand.  It is also said to be a chance for children facing hunger to see that they are not alone in this.  I also hope that it will be an opportunity to instill {more!} compassion in ourselves and our children,  a trait that makes the journey through life sweeter for you and those around you.

May we never have to tell our child(ren) “I’m sorry we have no food”.  May they never have to cry themselves to sleep because the hunger pains that they feel are just too unbearable.  And should we ever find ourselves in a place where we don’t know where our next meal is coming from may God pull on the heart-strings of those around us to offer their support.  KB.

p.s. Watch this video from CBS on the special.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 8, 2011 7:01 pm

    I love your call to action.
    I am part of our outreach leadership team at my church and this kind of thing is totally starting to speak to my heart.
    If nothing else, and I mean NOTHING else, I can talk to my kids about this. I can stir in them compassion for people who don’t get to eat enough.

    I love this and I love your writing.

  2. October 9, 2011 12:20 pm

    Thank you so so much. I think it’s wonderful that you are a part of your outreach leadership team at church and agree if we do nothing else we can at least start engaging in dialogue about this issue with our children!

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