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  Finding solutions for childhood food insecurity

 

Do Children Really Go Hungry?

Teachers, community leaders and non-profit volunteers in the Cincinnati area often see hunger on the faces of children. Hunger persists in spite of government money, corporate assistance and non-profit efforts.

A social worker adopted a 2-year old boy from a Cincinnati neighborhood. The new parents were astonished at how much food he was eating. But then they realized that he wasn’t eating all the food in one sitting - he was hiding food in his clothing and moving it to his bedroom drawer.

Because of his background, this boy did not know when he would receive his next meal – that’s childhood food insecurity. It took months for this 2-year old to learn that he would not need to hoard food in his new home.

child with bag of food
Heading home with food from Childhood Food Solutions

At Thanksgiving, two churches were providing a hot midday meal for families on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend. On the second day, one boy, about 8 years old, ate his lunch very quickly. One of our volunteers said, “Wow, you inhaled your food.” The boy asked what “inhaled” meant. “It means that you ate it quickly.” “That’s because I haven’t had anything to eat since I was here yesterday,” replied the boy.

It is unusual for an 8-year-old child to admit to hunger. His guard was down because the conversation was about words, not his family situation. Food insecurity is embarrassing. Also, if you complain you fear that you might be taken away from your home. Parents and guardians do not report childhood food insecurity because they fear they might lose custody of their child if they report hunger or seek help.

Most surveys underestimate food insecurity and hunger. One likely exception is an anonymous survey by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. They asked 200 adults, who had brought children for treatment, “Thinking about your family in the last year, how true is the statement: The food that we bought just didn’t last and we didn’t have money to get more?” 44% answered “Often true” or “Sometimes true.”

From time to time, Latoya calls a former teacher of hers to ask if she will take her to the grocery store, explaining that her siblings have nothing to eat. The teacher encourages the girl to pick out nutritious items, even though they are more expensive, and pays the bill. Latoya was only 11 years old when she began taking responsibility for her family in this way.

Cincinnati schools provide breakfast and lunch on school days but what happens on weekends, holidays, breaks and summer vacation? In today’s economy food stamp money goes very quickly. Government statistics show that 90% of food stamp money is spent within three days in a typical poverty neighborhood.


Food ready for distribution at Roll Hill School

Childhood Food Solutions is seeking additional volunteers and donors. If you would like to get involved in piloting new solutions for childhood food insecurity please contact Tony Fairhead at 513-910-4162 or by email to tony@childhoodfoodsolutions.org.

 

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