There’s nothing that breaks my heart more than childhood hunger. The sadness is deepened when it’s afflicting children close to me, children I know. I, as just one person, can only do so much. There is always the issue of dignity so simply giving a handout is not an adequate solution, short-term or long-term. Childhood hunger is rampant in your community too, whether you realize it or not, whether you choose to see it or not.
I often post on Twitter and Facebook what I’m cooking for dinner. I love to cook and I love to see my friends’ responses to get recipe and meal ideas from them. Food is the center of my life, and my kitchen is quite literally the center of my home. Yet I don’t take that for granted. I admittedly take a lot of things for granted, but a full belly and the joys and benefits that it brings is not one of them. The only time we have an issue with a lack of food is when Mac Daddy has finished the last of the ice cream and put the empty container back in the freezer. My sons’ bellies feed their brains, and they are both strong students. No complaints on that front. My boys make me proud.
Many of their peers in schools do not know what it is to sit down for a hot, home cooked family dinner. They do not know the luxury of opening up a pantry to a veritable wealth of snacks to settle a gurgling stomach. They don’t know the joys of slow simmered steel cut oats or pancakes shaped into letters to spell their name. They don’t know what it’s like to eat at will or buy groceries any day of the month. There are children I know whose only meals come from school – breakfast and lunch. They go home to no dinner and many don’t get a meal over the weekend. These are children who are deathly hungry yet are expected to ace their tests, stay awake in school, control their behavior, and learn effectively. Their expectations are the same as my sons’, who get three squares and then some everyday, have a cozy bed to sleep in, books at every turn, loving parents, medicine when they ail, and comfort in every iteration of the word.
We’re setting up an entire generation of children for failure.
We are quick to blame, prescribe, and intervene with more academic rigor or afternoons spent with flashcards and parent volunteers. We direct their families to various social services with no map to navigate the cumbersome, bureaucratic processes. We tsk tsk behind their backs and cluck about the horrific lack of parent involvement. We stand around judging and wondering how these parents can fail their children. We so easily cast our values on those whose paradigms we do not share. We cast judgement instead offer a hand, an ear, our heart. Meanwhile, throngs of children in our own community fall asleep to the lullaby of a growling belly. No amount of remediation and intervention will help a child whose basic needs are not met. Undernourished, hungry children cannot think clearly, process information effectively, maintain energy, concentrate, or get along easily with others. The plight of hunger transcends the classroom. Get the facts here from Share Our Strength.
We can help. And we should. This isn’t a partisan issue; this is a human issue.
My friend Gene Pinder, an artist, a writer, an engaged citizen, is making it oh so easy for us to help. Gene recently asked me about some organizations in our area that could use an extra boost. I sent him an email with links to several organizations and a blurb about why each speaks to me. Gene’s heart breaks too at the thought of hungry children in our community. He’s selling many of his paintings and donating half the proceeds to the Food Bank of Eastern and Central North Carolina. The organization’s mission is simple: to harness and supply resources so that no one goes hungry in central and Eastern North Carolina.