Today I’d like to discuss how children in America are affected by food insecurity. To start off, there’s the startling statistic that more than 13 million children in the United States live in food insecure households (No Kid Hungry). In order to understand this issue more, it’s best to dive into public schools, and the situations that children are in in that regard.
According to No Kid Hungry, three out of four public school teachers say that students regularly come to school hungry. In addition, half of public school students in the country are from low-income families, and because of that, there are millions of students that rely on a number of different school-provided meals, such as:
- 22 million children rely on free/reduced-price school lunches.
- 12 million children rely on free/reduced-price school breakfasts.
- 4 million children rely on free meals during the summertime when school meals are no longer available.
The effects of hunger on children can be incredibly destructive to both their in-school and out of school lives, as a number of negative outcomes can occur, as stated by No Kid Hungry. These can include the fact that:
- Undernourished children don’t learn as fast or as well as nourished children.
- Children struggling with hunger are more susceptible to obesity and its health consequences.
- Lack of healthy food can impair a child’s performance in school.
- Children who struggle with hunger are sick more, recover slowly, and are hospitalized more frequently.
- Teens who regularly face hunger are more likely to be suspended and have difficulty getting along with others.
As it’s clear to see in the information provided above, children who deal with and struggle with hunger are immediately behind the 8 ball in a number of different ways. And while some may point to the fact that parents should provide their kids with healthier meals, it’s simply not an option for some families. In fact, 85% of low-income families want to make healthy meals at home for their kids, but only 50% are able to do so most nights a week, with the perceived cost of healthy groceries being cited as their number one obstacle.
But in looking at solutions, looking back to public schools is one of the best bets. In a social impact analysis article, again from No Kid Hungry, they found that the potential impacts of increasing school breakfast participation to 70% of school lunch participation could be great. Possible outcomes would consist of 84,890 fewer absences, 56,590 students with higher math test scores, and 14,140 more high school graduates.
Ultimately, child hunger in America, like so many hunger-related issues, deeply hurts those involved in a variety of ways. Whether it be in the classroom or out of it, the number of children affected and the consequences that they face because of it are extremely dire. Thank you all for reading.
Augustine-Thottungal, Robin, et al. “Ending childhood hunger: A social impact analysis.” No Kid Hungry, 2013.
“Hunger Facts” No Kid Hungry, 2018.