I want the world to be a better place. I don’t want people to go hungry. I don’t want the destiny of the major crop in this country to be high-fructose corn syrup. I want everybody else to be able to enjoy local and nutritious food (or even just nutritious food for that matter). I want children to know what a vegetable is. I want (nutritious) food to be a right and not a privilege. I say this because today in our internship, we learned that the number one complaint that school nurses hear in the United States is bellyaches and it broke my heart a little to hear that these bellyaches were caused by hunger. Approximately 15.9 million or 20% of children in the United States live in homes without consistent access to food.
Here’s the thing that gets me: there’s enough food in this world to go around. Research shows that about 40% of all edible food is wasted. 40%! That statistic blows my mind. If that food went to people who needed it, we would not only have enough food to feed every person in America, but every person in the world. That’s pretty awesome. The problem is the distribution. Obviously, we’re never going to achieve 0% food waste (at least not without the help of some sort of genius technology that has yet to be discovered). But 40% is a lot. 40% is almost half. And when almost half of the food in the world isn’t being eaten…well, something has to be done about that. A lot of changes need to be made in policy, farming techniques, distribution and a whole mess of other things that I won’t pretend I understand (yet). And until this problem is solved, there will be likely still be hunger in the world which leads us back to the point: millions of kids go to school hungry every day.
I was (am) very lucky. I never had to worry about having access to breakfast in the morning. It may not have always been the most nutritious and it may have sometimes been unorthodox (hellooo blueberry Pop-Tarts and plain cooked pasta), but it was there. I never went to school hungry. But I can’t imagine how different my life would have been if I had. Think about being hungry. You’re angry and irritable and foggy. Without breakfast, kids have decreased attendance, more illness, have a harder time concentrated and have increased disciplinary problems. And who can blame them? I would require disciplinary action if I were hungry for too long too.
It makes me sad to think there’s not more than can be done immediately. And you might be thinking “thanks, Meghan, for bumming me out hard when there isn’t anything I can do about it.” But good news everyone! You can do something about it!!! There are two little ways I thought I would spread the word about. And before I go on, I should say that I in no way benefit from promoting these programs. I was not asked to but simply feel that these programs are worth discussing simply because they are not discussed enough. First, the National School Breakfast Program. If you haven’t heard of it, you’re not alone but you are missing out. The National School Breakfast Program was started by the USDA and works similarly to the National School Lunch Program (which I’m sure you’ve heard of or participated in at some point!) Their goal is to provide healthy, nutritious meals to students who cannot eat at home for whatever reason- money, time constraints, whatever the circumstance. Like school lunch, it is provided at reduced or free cost for families that are eligible. This provides a hearty breakfast to students who need it. What could be better?! So if you or anyone you know could take advantage of this program, it’s worth passing along. 78,000 schools participate and there’s a very good chance that yours or your child’s is one of them.
The second thing that excites me even more is this really great thing called the Great American Milk Drive that I learned about today. Milk is the number one item requested by food banks but is rarely donated. The reason for this, of course, is that it is highly perishable. BUT the really cool thing is that Feeding America started this program so that people can donate online, vouchers are sent out to Feeding America food banks and the milk is bought when their in need. It is easy, it is quick, it can be done from your couch and you can donate as little as $5 and that is one more family in America who suddenly has 128 ounces of nutrient-packed, protein-rich milk. I obviously understand that not everyone can afford to do this- there are those who are trying to pay their way through college and those who have food security issues of their own- but I know a lot of my friends have semi-disposable income and big hearts so I thought I would use whatever sort of voice I have to talk it up. The following link will take you straight to the page where you can donate:
And if you’re interested in the National School Breakfast Program, you can find more information here:
Again, I just want to emphasize I am in no way affiliated with either of these programs and I don’t benefit from recommending them. I just think that if we can help people, we should. And we can.