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Notes from the Kitchen

Hunger in America

by Libbie Summers

“Those who oppress the poor insult their maker, but those who are kind to the needy honor him.” Proverbs 14:31

A Hungry Child

In so many ways, America is the land of plenty. But approximately 14 million children in the U.S. live in poverty where hunger is a daily reality.  Many people believe that the problems associated with childhood hunger are confined to small pockets of the country, small pockets of society or certain neighborhoods, but the reality is much different. The face of hunger in the U.S. looks different than it does in other parts of the world. Of the millions of people struggling with hunger, it’s likely you know one…you just might not even be aware of their problem.  America’s hungry often have housing and are employed. They are often times, hardworking adults like ourselves, seniors and of course children who simply cannot make ends meet and are forced to make the decision to go without food for many meals and even days.

In the United States, more than one out of six children lives in a food insecure household, which means they do not always know where they will find their next meal.  Inadequate nutrition in a child has adverse effects on so many things, some of which are:

Physical Health: Lack of proper nutrition puts children at risk for illness and weakens their immune system. Without proper nutritional intake children are at risk for poor health and hospitalization. 2008 research reveals children from food insecure homes have 30% higher rates of hospitalization. The average cost of a single hospitalization for pediatric illness was $11,300.
Mental Health: Studies show that children raised in food insecure low income households were more likely to experience irritability, fatigue and difficulty concentrating.  Resulting in grade repetition, absenteeism, tardiness, anxiety, aggression, poor math scores and difficulty with social interaction.

Child Development: Children living in low income and food insecure households are more likely to be developmentally at risk.  Areas such as speaking, behavior and movement are effected which increase the likelihood of later problems with attention, learning and social interaction.

Academic Development and Achievement: Children from food insecure households are likely to be behind in their academic development compared to other children their own age. Ultimately making it difficult for them to catch up with their peers. Studies have shown that the reading and math skills of hungry children entering kindergarten developed significantly more slowly than other children.

The problem of childhood hunger is not simply a moral issue. Scientific evidence has proven that hungry children are less likely to become productive citizens.  A child who is unequipped to learn because of hunger and poverty is more likely to be poor as an adult. The circle then continues. We urge you to make a pledge to yourself this holiday season and 2010 to do what you can to help end this crisis in America. Start with a simple can.

To locate a local food bank or find other ways to help in your area, log onto
Statistics provided by: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Libbie Summers is a shameless yacht chef turned humiliated food stylist and recipe developer. She proudly serves as the Food Editor for Paula Deen Enterprises and the Head Food Stylist for Paula's Best Dishes. Originally from the show me state, Libbie now resides in Savannah, GA with her super fine husband, Josh. Their Vizsla, Emilie, runs their lives.

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Reader Comments:


As a child I was blessed to never go to bed hungry. That is not to say we were not poor because we were. I can remember my mom asking me every day when I came home what I had to eat at school that day. At the time I did not realize why she always asked. She always made sure we ate first before she took her plate. Then when the food drive came around at school she was one of the first to send cans to school. It was not much, but she said there was always other who needed it worse than we did.

Christie Garcia of Mississippi on December 09, 2009 02:36 AM

Christie, your memories are so important. People don’t realize that the mother’s and father’s of impoverished families are most often the ones to go without food so their children can eat. Your mother sounds like an amazing woman. Thank you very much for sharing your story.

Libbie Summers on December 10, 2009 07:55 AM


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