Childhood hunger is an increasing problem in our country. Twelve million children live in food insecure homes, which means they don’t get enough meals for proper nourishment. Hunger primarily affects children from low-income families. Over 34 million Americans live in poverty, often deciding between feeding their children and keeping a roof over their heads. However, many children facing childhood hunger live with parents who earn too much money to qualify for free lunch but earn too little to afford regular school meals. That’s why we have a national school lunch debt crisis.
The national public school debt in America is $262 million, rising yearly. 75.1% of surveyed schools have unpaid student meal debt, and 1.54 million students can’t afford school meals. We see an average school meal debt of $170.13 per child every year.
The Impact of childhood hunger
We all know the importance of properly nourishing our bodies, especially small, growing bodies. Kids who don’t have access to regular meals are at a higher risk for physical, emotional, and developmental issues.
The effects of hunger in childhood carry into adulthood because of issues such as:
Growth stunting. Many children who face childhood hunger stop growing too early and never reach a normal height for their age.
Underweight. Constant hunger often leads to unhealthy body weight in children.
Deficiencies: Lack of food means a lack of proper nutrition. A lack of vitamins and minerals can lead to a weakened immune system, gastrointestinal issues, and more. Common deficiencies include Vitamin A, Iron, Vitamin C, and Zinc.
Chronic illness. USDA research indicates a strong correlation between hunger and chronic diseases like hypertension, heart disease, anemia, asthma, and diabetes.
Mental Health Effects
Going a long time without meals can be stressful. The worry of where your next meal will come from (or if you can even eat at all) can cause mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Children who aren’t getting enough to eat usually have a hard time concentrating in school. Hunger can make kids aggressive or hyperactive. Such behavioral issues can distract kids from their work, leading to learning disabilities and developmental delays. Many elementary school children who face hunger will have to repeat a grade.
How We Can Help
The statistics and effects of childhood hunger are devastating. We have kids of our own and have a hard time imagining them facing such terrible effects of low nutrition. Our hearts ache for the millions of children facing these realities every day. That’s why we at The Salty Hippo Store want to help. 5% or a minimum of $1 of every purchase will go towards a non profit organization called “For the Kids”. This organization gathers, assembles and distributes meals for children to have on the weekends so when their source of food is not in session they can have this additional source to give them the nourishment they desperately need. It is our hope that these donations will help schools be able to feed more students and fight the childhood hunger crisis.
If you would like to make any additional donations directly to the organization, you can do so here.