"I tried every which way to get my mind off of food," he said. " . . . Looking through my mother's Woman's Home Companions was how I started to eat roast beef and chocolate cake. There was this absolutely gorgeous roast beef-and-gravy ad with little potatoes and carrots a whole page high, and I took a scissors and cut it out and began to eat it. What was amazing was how the paper actually tasted like roast beef. The same with the chocolate cake. I cut that out and then found an ice cream ad, and I put the ice cream on top of the cake and it really tasted chocolate."
"Actually, eating paper was not all that bad. I took little nibbles and drank water with it and my stomach really did feel a little filled up afterward. Also, I could spend a lot of time hunting through the magazines to put together lunches and dinners. I ate things I'd never eaten before. Like artichokes. And avocados. And lamb chops."
I was horrified, as I imagine you are, then haunted by Aaron's story. After sharing it with family and friends, I decided to join President Obama in his goal to end childhood hunger in America by 2015 and to help raise awareness in my own way.
I've since learned that 17.2 million of today's U.S. households struggle to put food on the table. Because of that, more than 16 million of our children are at risk for hunger; which is more than one in five. Lack of sufficient food affects many aspects of children's lives, from physical and mental development to emotional wellbeing. And as adults, hungry children are more likely to suffer from poverty and less likely to become productive citizens.
Thankfully, there are close to a million public food assistance programs and private organizations; each with an array of innovative approaches that can be trusted to help meet the needs of these vulnerable children:
Most helpful are the federal programs, such as SNAP (food stamps), WIC (supplemental food for Women, Infants and Children), and the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs.
Feeding America, the nation's largest hunger-relief charity, has a network of 200 food banks. One of its many programs is Kids Cafe which "provides free meals and snacks to low income children through a variety of locations where children already congregate during the afterschool hours."
Another is the Summer Food Program which "provides nutritional, healthy meals, food packages, vouchers, and/or snacks to children at risk of hunger during the summer months when school is not in session."
Another national organization, Share Our Strength, "supports food banks and emergency-relief organizations and works to address hunger's root causes." Through fundraising events like Taste the Nation, the Great American Bake Sales, and Dine Out for No Kid Hungry, they engage millions of people.
And finally, a 2012 Charity of the Year, Blessings in a Backpack, is designed to feed elementary school children whose families qualify for the federally funded National School Lunch Program and have little or no food on the weekend.
Joining Aaron's memoir to haunt me yesterday, was a video of poor children who live just hours away from us. As they stared into the lens of the camera, they stuffed their little mouths with "dirt cookies" made from earth, salt and shortening. I say, let's work together to end this nightmare. Let's donate food or money. Volunteer. Sponsor a child. Start a program. Do something.
By Viaux from Miami, FL
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I love this post. Sometimes I think our American children have been forgotten. I feel for all hungry children but, first and foremost, we must take care of our own. Our politicians must focus on the needy and not be trying to eliminate social programs for the ones who, no fault of their own cannot fend for themselves. Jesus said "feed the hungry".
This was a great article and its really good of you to raise awareness to let others know of others suffering. Sometimes as we go about our daily business we forget how little others have. I have had to use those places myself and it really makes a difference, and I always put something in the food bank bins. Also I buy Christmas presents for a child the same age as each of my own children. Thanks!
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