The Silent Crisis of Childhood Hunger in America

The Silent Crisis of Childhood Hunger in America

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Since 2007, family homelessness in the United States has skyrocketed by 20%. According to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, lack of affordable housing is the most pressing concern for every city and county in America. A family earning the poverty threshold of $24,000 annually cannot afford even a one-bedroom apartment in any jurisdiction in the United States. This crisis of poverty means that families are faced with a difficult decision each month: to pay the rent or buy groceries. And in this situation, paying the rent always wins — because it is easier to be hungry than homeless.

When families cut back on groceries, children are the first to suffer. Childhood hunger is a “silent crisis” that affects every community in our country. U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) statistics show that there are 22 million children who are “food insecure”, meaning that they lack regular access to nutritious meals. Working poor and homeless families who struggle to make ends meet often feed their children substandard meals that are based on non-nutritious food items. Without consistent access to nutritious meals, children are put an increased risk for illness and developmental delays. Their performance in school – and in life – suffers dramatically. Many people in our society try to blame adults and others for these children’s situations — and while some blame can be surely be cast, the fact is that these children are hungry and suffering through no fault of their own.

Throughout the school year, many children qualify for, and receive, free and reduced breakfast and lunch through school-sponsored meal programs. However, once school is out, these students lose consistent access to nutritious meals.

During the summer months, The Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve (FOCUS North America) sees a sharp increase in the number of families and children coming to its centers for food assistance. Providing food to those in need is central to FOCUS’ mission. Across the nation, FOCUS provides meals to those in need three times a day, seven days a week, every day of the year. This year alone, FOCUS will feed close to 300,000 people in need.

In the summer of 2015, FOCUS instituted a pilot “Summer Feeding Program” in Phoenix, Arizona. The program engaged local Orthodox parishes and volunteers and successfully served 17,185 meals to hungry children in Phoenix and Scottsdale.

With the momentum and success of last year’s program, FOCUS was heralded by the White House and the USDA as a “Summer Feeding Champion” and challenged to expand its summer feeding operations nationwide. Accepting this call to reduce childhood hunger in America, FOCUS made a commitment in 2016 to grow its summer feeding reach to nine cities spread across eight states and to serve thousands of children in need

This summer, FOCUS’ program will serve 40,000 meals to disadvantaged children in neighborhoods surrounding Orthodox parishes in Detroit, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Ohio, Washington DC, Fairfax, Virginia and Pasadena and Long Beach, California. As you can imagine, preparing and serving 40,000 meals in nine cities is a huge undertaking. To accomplish this goal, FOCUS will again leverage a strong network of Orthodox parishes and volunteers to serve children in need. FOCUS will provide all necessary program oversight, staffing, insurance coverages and all food items. The program will require many volunteers and we encourage you, your family and your parish to get actively involved. FOCUS’ Summer Feeding Program will be a wonderful hands-on opportunity for you and your parish to engage and assist disadvantaged children. The program will give children much needed access to nutrition and will serve as a shining beacon of outreach to the local area in the name of Orthodoxy. If you do not live in one of the cities listed above, you can still get involved. Consider bringing a group from your parish to one of our target cities. Your group will help serve children during the day and then you will be free to explore the city or assist with other hands-on FOCUS projects.
Visit FOCUSNorthAmerica.org/summerfeeding for more information, program updates, and volunteer information!

 

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About author
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Adam Murphy

Adam Murphy is the communications coordinator for FOCUS North America. Adam is a graduate of Hellenic College and has worked in youth ministry and camping programs in the Antiochian and Greek Archdioceses. He has studied and worked in Greece and Lebanon, which added to his desire to share stories of outreach, personal and community transformation. Outside of his communications work, Adam is a musician, playing blues and folk music around the Pittsburgh area and is a lover of all things gastronomical.