Kids Can L.E.A.P Into Action To Fight Child Hunger In The US
There are hungry kids all around us. They are food insecure.
Before Covid-19 struck, one in seven kids were facing something called Food Insecurity (when a family doesn’t always have enough healthy food for the whole month) but now, it is more like one in six. Across our land, families who never needed help before are turning to pantries and food banks to secure enough food to eat.
1 in 6 kids across America - including your community - does not have enough to eat.
This is a huge challenge for families and very stressful for kids.
But the good news is you can help your children’s classmates, your neighbors - and maybe even your friends.
What Is Food Insecurity?
This is not a problem in another place - food insecurity is in every community.
I’m Erik, And I Run A Food Bank
My day job is running the food bank in Santa Barbara County. We’re a large organization that brings in millions of pounds of food each year and stores it in large warehouses. We then distribute it through a network of 300 local member nonprofit organizations.
Every day, I see people are hurting, especially in the present pandemic. But I also see how we ensure people get the help they need.
When I’m not working at the food bank, I am a children’s writer, and I wanted to write about food insecurity from a child’s perspective.
So I wrote a book, “Lulu and the Hunger Monster,” based on my experiences over the years of working with food insecure families with young children.
How Kids Can Take Action Against Hunger Right Now
Child hunger in the US is a subject that can feel overwhelming, but there are a lot of things that all kids can do to help themselves or classmates and friends who may be hungry.
But to do so, they need to take a L.E.A.P.
This is the acronym to remind us what kids can do to take action against hunger.
In this post, I want to dig a little deeper in terms of how children and their teachers and parents can make the most of using L.E.A.P. to fight child hunger and make a difference at the local, community-wide level.
Why Can't Food Insecure Families Just Get Help?
Every day, I see how much stigma and embarrassment are key issues in preventing kids from getting help for their child hunger in the US.
I hope that Lulu will help kids learn to get over their fears and ask for help.
In the book, Lulu is a brave girl who is trying to help herself and her mom face a monster called hunger.
L.E.A.P Into Action In 4 Steps
Hunger is often an ‘invisible problem,’ but there is so much information available out there about the challenging truths around the many Americans who are at risk of going to bed hungry.
The stories at the websites above that talk about kids’ hunger are so important, because statistics mean nothing to children - they need to be able to relate to hunger in a personal way.
This is a tough topic, but once they understand childhood hunger is real and widespread, change can happen. They can make it happen.
This is really the crux of the matter. Food insecure kids need understanding almost as much as they need food.
Hunger is a socially complex issue. Unlike classic medical conditions, childhood food insecurity carries a significant stigma. And kids that are food secure can play a part in breaking down the barrier of silence around hunger.
When food secure kids realize that food insecure kids are embarrassed about their hunger, on top of the physical and emotional problems of hunger, that’s when change can happen. The awareness and empathy that understanding brings can lead to powerful social and emotional learning.
How To Explain Empathy and Fight Food Insecurity
Have your practice empathy.
Ask your child to imagine times when they had a problem and someone helped them. Did it make they feel awkward and ‘not enough?’
Or kids can also write little scenes imagining what problems they would have if they were hungry.
You can also introduce the concept of being ‘hangry’ (hunger leading to impatience and anger) and use understanding of those feelings to begin the groundwork for empathizing with someone who may have no choice but to be hangry.
Remember: One kid in six or seven is hungry in America. Your child can look around the classroom or playground and know that for every seven kids, at least one is likely hungry.
This is the meat in the sandwich. The chance for children to help others.
It might be their own friends or neighbors, where they share food in a neutral way that would not embarrass the other person.
Empowering kids to advocate for themselves by talking to a teacher or counselor can also enable a family to get help that is out there that they might not be aware of.
Once you’re helping the people you know, you can begin to cast a wider net to help everyone in your town.
A Few Community Action Ideas:
When students volunteer or give back - in any of these ways - with their parents and caregivers, it helps broaden their awareness beyond the classroom and offers a chance for valuable family engagement.
Kids get to see the results of their action - and that makes all the difference.
Persist, don’t procrastinate.
Persistence is the only thing that will eradicate the underlying causes of food insecurity at the community level in the U.S.A.
We all want our children to be thoughtful and caring members of society, but we don’t need to wait for them to grow up. There are lots of things kids can do now. I’m always inspired by this quote from Anne Frank, a girl who had a lot to contend with, but still found the strength to issue this rallying cry:
“Hunger is not a problem. It is an obscenity. How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” - Anne Frank
L.E.A.P. To Fight Food Insecurity
Resources To Start Fighting Child Hunger In The US With Your Child
Here's A Quick Video On How Mia Fights Child Hunger In The US
...And How Big Food Banks Work
L.E.A.P. And Make A Difference
You can also find out more about Lulu and the Hunger Monster at: https://hunger-monster.com
Empower your child to make a difference today. Together, your family can help change the world, one hungry child at a time.