Childhood wellness requires numerous support systems to ensure that children have everything they need to thrive. Clean air, clean water, sufficient food, adequate safety, reliable shelter, sufficient clothing, effective nurturing, a good education and ample opportunity are requirements for a child to grow up to be a healthy, happy, productive adult member of the community.

Unsure of the next meal

In a traditional, functioning family, each of these is made available to the children through the family wage earners. But if the family is failing, then the community must step in to avoid having a generation that is dependent on society rather than productive members of it.

As many as 16 million children in the United States do not know when and what they may eat next. Most of them get adequate food during the school day, but they are food insecure on weekends and during school breaks and vacations. Ten to 30 percent of those children in the state of New Hampshire who receive free breakfast and free lunch in school still exhibit the behaviors of children who are hungry, to the point that guidance counselors and nurses are concerned about them, yet in 85 percent of families in the country where there is food insecurity, at least one person is working full time outside the home.

The largest problem for these families is the last two weeks of the month, when any benefits  —Food Stamps, SNAP — have been depleted.

How hunger affects the brain

The effects of childhood hunger on a child can be as severe as the symptoms of PTSD or as mild as headaches and stomachaches, but the impact on their ability to learn is well documented. Behavioral disruptions, poorer reading and math skills, and decreased likelihood of successfully mastering the course material are the most frequent impact.

As many as 16 million children in the United States do not know when and what they may eat next.

The costs to the community are also well documented. It costs $8,000 to $10,000 to the community for a child to repeat a grade, and it costs between $23,000 and $30,000 for a year of incarceration in the criminal justice system. If we cannot help these children succeed in school, we will later pay the costs as a community. We need to help our children be successful.

How you can help

The single most impactful act that we can perform to help these children is to put food directly into their hands.

Many communities have addressed the problem at a local level — one child at a time, one school at a time, one town at a time. Volunteers pack food into bags or backpacks and deliver it to schools, and school personnel deliver it to students in need. The bags contain enough food for the children to have three dinners, two breakfasts and two lunches over the weekend when they are not in school.

What we hear from these children, from their families, and from the teachers and guidance counselors, is that this food makes a huge difference in their lives, as well as their behavior in the classroom and their ability to learn.

There are 100-percent volunteer organizations committing 100 percent of all the donated funds to buy and provide food with no overhead. Space for program needs is all donated, and over 1,000 volunteers contributed more than 17,000 hours in 2015 to feed children. You too can make a difference in the lives of these children, right in your own community — starting today.

  1. Spread the word that there are 16,000,000 hungry children in America. Talk about it in your community, your civic groups, your churches and your homes. Make others aware of it. Far too few people know that there are hungry children in every community who need your help.

  2. Review the facts regarding the agencies that “say” they are helping and find out the truth behind the story. There are many agencies collecting funds and distributing funds and food to those in need, but not all do so at the same cost. Some of these organizations pay huge salaries to agency officials and officers, and have and build huge buildings, which your donations pay for.

  3. Find out how many children are hungry in the school nearest to you. Ask the guidance counselors and nurses — they know. From there, deliver snacks to the guidance counselors and nurses in the school nearest to you so that they can share them with the children most in need. To better the effort, mobilize your friends, coworkers and family to deliver snacks to the school nearest to them. Collect non-perishable food and distribute it to the school nurse and guidance counselor at the school nearest to you, so that they can package it and give it to the students most in need.