If you google the term “hunger” and peruse through the images, you will see a very familiar scene. You will see hundreds of photos of people in far off countries, barely clothed and barely fed. You will see boney faces and big eyes looking up at the camera, as if to beg for their next meal. If you continue to scroll through the images, you might eventually see some familiar faces that might take you by surprise. Have you ever wondered what hunger REALLY looks like? You know, right here in the country you live in?
Unfortunately, I have never had to wonder. I never had to guess what hunger looked like. You see, in 12 years of teaching in an urban public school system, I saw things I never ever imagined possible in the richest country on earth. In fact, the stories are so numerous, that is hard to just pick one. However, these stories of what hunger REALLY looks like need to be told. I’ve joined some of my teacher friends to do just that… expose what hunger REALLY looks like in America.
Did you know that one in five children in America are hungry? 1 in 5! That is 16 MILLION children!
“They come in, they are hungry, we give them food. It’s a normal thing for a teacher.We have become so desensitized to it that we don’t even process it or ask questions.” says, Jennifer, a kindergarten teacher in a urban school district in Arizona.
The numbers are staggering. They take your breath away if you really stop and think for a moment just how many children that really is. That means when you walk into a kindergarten classroom of 25 children, you are more than likely looking at 5 hungry faces. That is an entire table of children. All of them… HUNGRY.
“I had a student who came into class crying one day because she was late for school. There was a rule for the school cafeteria that if you came into school after a certain time, you couldn’t get breakfast. She knew she was going to go through the entire morning hungry if she didn’t eat.” ~Emily, public first grade teacher in an urban district
Did you know 11 million children in the United States receive free or reduced-price school breakfast? This means their family income falls below the national poverty line. 11 MILLION children can barely afford breakfast and often come to school looking for their next meal. Yet, we expect them to sit down, pay attention, and get ready to learn!
“In our school, the teachers dropped their class off in the cafeteria for lunch. There were cafeteria aides and about 200 kids there at a time. I didn’t eat with my class. This student always “packed” her lunch. Unbeknownst to me for the first few months of school, her lunchbox was always empty (or it had just a chips ahoy cookie or a few saltines). One day as a special treat the students got to eat lunch in the classroom with me and watch a movie. It was the first time that I really had the chance to see what they were eating. She sat there and pretended to eat, wiping her mouth, etc. After inquiring a little bit (Did you forget your lunch? Do you have money on your lunch account? etc) I began to realize that she never came to school with lunch. I offered her what I was planning to eat and she inhaled it.” ~Jamie, second grade teacher in a suburban school
The truth is… Hunger is not always easy to see. Hunger is real and hunger exists.
“One of my little 5 year old girls came hungry to school every morning. She was consistently tardy, missing out on her “free breakfast” because she arrived after school started. Not willing to let a little one go hungry, the nurse “broke the rules” and stopped by the cafeteria every morning to pick up her breakfast and we let her eat in the back of the room. Every weekend I made sure to send her kid-friendly food in her backpack, purchased from my own pocket.” ~Amanda, Kindergarten teacher in urban school
“I had twin 5 year old girls in my class, and they had a younger sister at home. Every day they would come into school simply ravenous, and Mondays were the worst since they had been under-fed all weekend. I began collecting no-cook foods for them- from the cafeteria, from other teachers, and out of my own pocket. Each Friday, I’d send them home with a book bag full of the healthiest no-cook foods I could scrounge up, just to make sure the three girls would at least have food in their bellies.” ~ Liz, Kindergarten teacher in rural public school
I will never forget the day I realized one of my students didn’t have food at home. Day after day, I would find tidbits of the lunch in her backpack, but nothing that seemed too out of the ordinary. It wasn’t until that one day when I noticed something leaking out the side pocket that I started to wonder. “We don’t have milk at home” she said as she looked up at me pleadingly. It took everything I had to tell her, “Oh, but honey, you can’t take the milk home, it will make you very sick if it gets warm and then you drink it.”
Right then, in that moment, I saw it… I saw what hunger really looked like! I saw the truth behind hunger and what hunger really is. Hunger is real. Hunger is hard to see. Hunger is.
I am honored to be part of team of bloggers sharing a message about the Hunger Is campaign at Albertsons (and participating stores).
The Albertsons Safeway family of stores will be having a national “Hunger Is” campaign taking place September 1st through September 30th, 2015 to help aid in the relief of childhood hunger in America. This program is designed to raise awareness, volunteer hours, and funds that will improve health outcomes for hungry children and their families.
There are two ways you can help!
- “Donation Campaign” at register to donate where shoppers will be asked by cashiers while checking out if they would like to donate to the Hunger Is fundraiser. You can click here to find your nearest location.
Brand Partnerships : where any purchase of a participating product earns a meal
Participating Brands/Products include:
Con Agra – Marie Calender’s, Healthy Choice, Bertolli’s and PF Changs brands
Every designated item/product purchased supports “Hunger Is”, helping connect hungry kids in our neighborhoods to healthy food
I couldn’t help but think about that statistic as I ate my breakfast with the kids this morning. One in Five. One in five children do not get to pick out their favorite cereal, sit with their family, and eat a healthy breakfast before heading off to school each morning. Hunger is real. Hunger exists. Hunger is.
Do you have any stories of what hunger REALLY looks like? I would love to hear them and share the truth about hunger!
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Albertsons Safeway . The opinions and text are all mine.