Hunger is defined as “a circumstance in which an individual unwillingly goes without food for an intermittent or extended period of time.” (USDA)
Children in homes where their next meal is uncertain, or where the meals are nutritionally inadequate face consequences with their physical and emotional health, academic performance and growth, and psychosocial development.
Poorer overall health status
Compromised ability to resist illness and ability to heal
Elevated occurrence of stomach aches, headaches, colds, and ear infections
Greater incidences of hospitalization
School-age children from food insecure households are more likely to have had low birth weight
Iron deficiency anemia is twice as likely to occur if a child is food insecure
Greater susceptibility to obesity and its harmful health consequences
Less energy, fatigue
Brain and cognitive development in the prenatal period (0-3 yrs.) is affected.
School readiness in preschool years (0-5 ys.)
Learning, academic performance and educational attainment during school years (6-17 yrs.)-
Higher levels of aggression, hyperactivity as well as passivity
Impaired cognitive functioning and diminished capacity to learn
Lower test score and poorer overall school achievement
Increased school absences, tardiness, school suspensions
Decreased attention span
Iron-deficiency anemia can lead to developmental and behavioral disturbances that can affect the ability to learn
Malnutrition in a very young child changes the neurological structure of the brain and the central nervous system which can harm a child’s ability to learn.
Negative feels about self worth can result from food insecurity and chronic hunger
Anxiety; children worrying where their next meal is coming from
Hungry children are less likely to interact with their peers
Hungry children are less likely to explore or learn from their surroundings
Higher levels of depression/anxiety among school-aged children
Internalizing behavior problems
Child related quality of life, perceived functionality
Children horde food.
Children who are receiving the free and reduced breakfast/lunch program at school can often become more anxious and angry before a weekend, knowing it may be days before they get a meal.
During school, food insecure children often ask other children for their leftovers from their trays.
Children can be seen hanging around the trash where lunch trays are scraped.
Often these children volunteer to help in the kitchen at school, anywhere there may be food.
World hunger is not disputed. Hunger in America is not disputed. Hunger in our own state and city, while not disputed, understandably does not reach the front pages of national news.
Photos and statistics of hunger depict great desperation and evoke reactions of sorrow and often incredulity when confronted with the scope of this atrocity.
Words, reactions and attention, from “ordinary” citizens to celebrities, moving tributes of global awareness, have created a demand for involvement, promoting and encouraging all of us to become agents of change in addressing this atrocity.
All these efforts are to be recognized and commended.
The children of Union County, children who experience food insecurity, who have not expressed their appreciation for these acts of humanity must be excused for their lack of enthusiasm. Many of them are too hungry to concentrate on what transpires beyond the memory of their last meal and the anxiety of uncertainty concerning when they may eat again.
The physical pain of an empty stomach permeates into every aspect of their day. Instead of scurrying to gather their homework, lunch bag and latest trinket for show and tell, they are searching for any morsel of food. Instead of the excitement of getting to school to see their friends, plans for after school play or sport, their eagerness is fueled by anticipation of the free breakfast awarded them for their eligibility based on income.
The persistence of hunger, a disturbing aspect of life in this country, doesn’t disappear if we look the other way. We can’t turn the pages of the newspaper or change the channel on the television, leaving this atrocity to be dealt with by someone else. We have to act now. We have to be proactive. We have to remember that hungry children are not able to circumvent this problem on their own.
Hunger doesn’t take a break for these children. It doesn’t go away by looking the other way or placing blame. It is our problem as much as it theirs. Eliminating hunger is within our reach.