Lance Oppenheim, a 17 year-old from Southwest Ranches, Fla., featured the winner of a literary writing contest in a video called Open Your Eyes, which asked participants to describe what child hunger means to them. Lance serves as a National Youth Advisory Council member of generationOn, the global youth service enterprise of Points of Light. (This post originally ran on the White House's For the Win blog.)
A family friend recently had a baby and I’m relieved that this new family has the resources to secure for the child the proper nutrients and food throughout his infancy (and beyond). But, that sense of security should not be taken for granted. Unfortunately, over 16.7 million children live in food insecure households within the United States. Food insecurity is actually an odd term, referring to the fact that these children do not have enough food necessary for a healthy life. Food insecurity is an antiseptic, nonemotional term for children who find no relief when their tummies grumble; for children who miss meals and go to bed hungry, day after day, night after night.
It is incredible to even consider that 1 in 5 children may not know from where their next meal will come. In my community of Broward County, Fla., only 31 percent of all households that are eligible for food stamps actually receive them, and 44 percent of all students who are enrolled in elementary school qualify for free or reduced lunches. A staggering 15 percent of Broward County’s children live in poverty. Nationwide that number jumps to 22 percent. The United States, a super power and model for the rest of the world, has not fully addressed the vast problem of food insecurity for children. We can and should do better.
Perhaps most disturbing is that so many of us are not even aware of the hungry families in our communities. We are the fortunate ones who choose what we eat, unaware of the great security we enjoy by making these simple food decisions. While society may have created invisible walls that obfuscate the enormity of the issues and social implications that child hunger presents, organizations and individuals across the country are stepping up to fight child hunger.
We can all do our part. As a National Youth Advisory Council member of generationOn, I sponsored a literary writing contest through my organization, the Opp-Guide to Community Service Inc., which asked participants to describe what child hunger means to them. I featured the winner of the contest in a video called Open Your Eyes. Learn about Holly’s story and then decide what you can do.
Whether it is collecting nonperishable items, planting community gardens or raising funds to donate to local food programs, it’s time to open your eyes.
Together we can put an end to food insecurity and wipe child hunger off the map.