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article imageOp-Ed: Childhood Hunger in America Today

By Donald Quinn     Nov 24, 2012 in World
Childhood hunger is an epidemic which is sweeping the world, and now has invaded the United States as well. Over 16 million children are hungry in America today, 129 million children in the world are underfed.
Today’s world has a terrible and devastating problem with which we must deal. As society has grown bigger there are those that are left between the cracks, struggling to survive. Often there is not enough food, which leaves the most helpless and the weakest members of society malnourished, hungry, and often dying from the inability to feed themselves. Sadly this has become a very real existence for millions of children around the world, even in the outwardly prosperous United States.
The statistics on child hunger are staggering to say the least, frightening and very real, they urge activity to end this terrible plague which has fallen on our society. Here are some of the facts:
• UNICEF estimates that 7.6 million children died in 2010, half of those were related to malnutrition and lack of access to healthy food.
A child of Somali refugees  at a camp in Malkadiida  Ethiopia.
A child of Somali refugees, at a camp in Malkadiida, Ethiopia.
Eskinder Debebe / UN
• 129 million children living in the developing world, under the age of 5, are extremely underweight. This means that one in four children in the developing world are not getting enough food to sustain themselves. 10% of the children are severely underweight.
• 16.7 million children in America live in homes that are classified as being food insecure. This means that on any given day 16.7 million children in America, land of milk and honey, could very well go hungry.
• 62% of America’s teachers regularly see children that come to school without having had a proper meal.
• More than 20 million children across America need to take advantage of a free or reduced price breakfast at their school.
• Out of every five children in America today, at least one is suffering from hunger. That is 1 in 5.
It is important to understand that hunger is no longer a problem that we can take care of by simply turning a blind eye. It is happening now, and it is happening in America’s schools across the country. Lunchrooms everywhere are often the only meal a child will receive, the only one they can look forward to.
As a child begins to experience extreme hunger, starvation sets in. This starts with a substantial loss of body fat and muscle mass as the body starts to feed on itself and break down both the fat and the muscles. The body does this to keep the vital organs like the heart and lungs functioning, in essence the body goes into survival mode. Early symptoms of starvation are irritability, hyperactivity, and impulsive behaviors. These behaviors seen among school age children may easily be dismissed as simple childhood mischief and not as the onset of a terrible and avoidable condition.
Muscle movement then start to become very painful as the body continues to waste away. Fatigue and apathy set in. The body is beginning to enter the stage where it can no longer fight off any disease and at this point fungus, bacteria, and viruses freely take their toll on the body. In a short amount of time the person is no longer able to feel the hunger and even stops recognizing the symptoms of thirst which leads to dehydration. This is not a pretty picture, nor should it be painted as such. Ultimately a child who does not receive food will die a slow and painful death.
While the conditions in America are not so sever, each of these symptoms are manifested everyday among the 16 plus million children who are forced to live their lives too poor to be able to afford food. The question is what can be done about it. There are people who are working to make a difference in the lives of these children.
Organizations like Feeding America have taken a very active stance against hunger in America. Through a network of food banks, they have been able to make a significant dent in the crisis by reaching many hungry people.
No Kid Hungry has set an aggressive goal, soliciting $46 from people to provide a child with 220 meals for the next year. Through a well defined program and set goals No Kid Hungry has also started to have an impact on the hungry in America, particularly the children.
Child Hunger Ends Here has solicited a number of celebrities, including Jewel, to help in the fight against hungry children in America and have successfully launched numerous programs that have helped take meals to hundreds of thousands of children across the country.
There are also a number of smaller efforts underway in quiet and unobtrusive ways. This Black Friday, a website called save1.com caught my attention with its innovative program to help the hungry children of the world. Partnering with a dozens of brands like Nautical, Express, Lane Bryant, and GAP to name a few the site offered deep discounts on merchandise through its coupon program. What most people would not know about this site is that for every dollar spent through coupons purchased on their site, Save1 gets a small kickback from the retailer which then goes towards the fight against hunger.
Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town "The families that we're talking about and these children, they're struggling. I mean, they don't know what they're going to eat for supper tonight. It's not even about the month. It's about right now, filling those bellies so they can do great things with their lives."
Little Big Town has joined the fight against Childhood hunger and recently spent time at a local food bank to try and raise awareness.
Only when small programs become big programs and the world unites against this problem, speaking with one voice will the challenges of childhood hunger be addressed. With numbers ranging in the hundreds of million worldwide, and over 16 million right here in the United States it is safe to say that hungry children are no longer just “someone else’s problem”. The epidemic is rooted here in the homeland and all across the globe.
The next generation needs our generation to step in to the breach and in one voice, regardless of whether its retail initiatives, musical superstars, or dedicated non-profits speak up against the fact that 16 million hungry children is simply not acceptable, anywhere.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
More about childhood hunger, Hunger, Children, Unicef, Little Big Town
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