The facts are heartbreaking:
1 in 5 American children live under poverty levels and do not get enough to eat.
16.7 million children lived in food-insecure households in 2011.
During 2011, more than 31 million low-income children received free or reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program. However, just 2.3 million children participated in the Summer Food Service Program that same year.
Everybody knows — or ought to know — that proper nutrition, especially in the first years of a child’s life is crucial for physical and mental development, for the ability to learn in school and for that child’s subsequent chances for financial and emotional success. A lack of good nutrition, in other words, literally stunts children physically, mentally and emotionally. It also contributes to school absences and troubles down the road.
It is almost impossible to understand this disgrace is happening in the greatest, wealthiest country in the world. But, alas, it is. There are many causes. Some parents, sad to say, do not see to it that their children eat good, healthy meals. In some cases, that results from a lack of knowledge about nutrition. In some cases (hopefully far fewer cases), some parents apparently just don’t care, a form of neglect and abuse. In the overwhelming number of cases, the parent, parents or guardians simply do not have enough money to stretch their food dollar. In still other cases, children may not feel hunger pains because they are eating starchy or fatty foods with virtually no nutritional value. And that is a common cause of “nutritional starvation” in children living in poverty. Many families simply do not have the money to purchase quality foods. The prices of fresh fruits, vegetables and other nutritious foods continue to climb, mostly beyond the reach of poverty wages.
Food stamps and area food shelves do help. Reduced or free-cost lunches — at least during the school year — are also a godsend.
Hunger anywhere, with anyone, is always a tragedy. But it is especially sad and really unforgivable when it’s children who are going hungry, sometimes day after weary day.
There is hope, however. Many good people and organizations are trying to do something about the problem. Like all other problems, the first step to doing something about it is to learn as much as possible about it and then share that knowledge with others while taking positive actions.
Here are just a few of their websites on which people can find out the facts about hunger and then, hopefully, make a donation.
No Kid Hungry: nokidhungry.org
Feeding America: feedingamerica.org
Child Hunger: childhungerendshere.com
Childhood Hunger: childhoodhunger.org
Children’s Hunger Fund: chfus.org
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.