There is more to hunger than an empty stomach — especially for children. Hunger impacts every aspect of a child’s life. It affects their physical, mental, and social development — compromising not only their present, but their future.
Many of us are aware of the physical toll that hunger takes on kids’ growing bodies, like higher rates of hospitalization, lower immunity, nutrient deficiencies, and overall poor health. Research also indicates that children who face hunger are more likely to develop chronic health conditions than those who always have access to the food they need.
Studies have shown that hunger also affects a child’s educational success because they struggle to focus in class and as a result, retain less of what they are taught. Children experiencing hunger may also have trouble socializing and express behavioral problems including aggression, anxiety, and depression. So, we know hunger affects kids’ development, but new research reveals what it would be like to walk in their shoes.
A recent study conducted by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics examined 60 children’s experiences with hunger. They asked a series of questions and examined the kids’ responses in an effort to understand their emotions. The following themes were uncovered in the stories they told:
- They worry about their parents’ well-being.
- They experience anger, frustration, worry, and sadness about not having enough food.
- They feel embarrassed about their family’s food situation.
- They perceive strain on the family’s dynamics due to food insecurity.
Fortunately, the 80,000 children facing hunger in our service area have resources to rely on through Feeding America West Michigan and our partners. In the following stories, you’ll meet some of these kids and their heroic parents who will stop at nothing to ensure they have enough to eat.