Giving a voice to the silent struggle of hunger
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It is almost time for the final school bell of the year to ring and students to stream out of classroom doors. It is easy, in the anticipation of summer adventure, to forget that all too many children have, and will continue to face, an enormous challenge in their lives.

Many of us associate hot summer months with food—hamburgers, hot dogs, ice cream and more. Yet across the United States, 13 million children face hunger per year. That is enough children to fill 520,000 classrooms in our country. 

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By any standard you might consider, it is far too many.

When a child suffers from hunger it is not always clearly evidenced; it is a quiet, personal struggle, where they fight to focus first thing in the morning because they did not have breakfast or sit on the sidelines during recess while their friends enjoy a game because they simply to not have the energy to play.

Today, Feeding America looks to amplify that quiet battle and give voice to the millions of students who find success despite the challenges of hunger.

We are bringing the equivalent of an elementary classroom to Capitol Hill, today, with students who rely on the free and reduced-price lunch program—many for more than one of their daily meals during the school year—to share their personal stories about how something as simple as a quality meal can change the course of their day, and what they are able to accomplish because of it.

For more than 70 years, the modern school lunch program has fed students in need and it has grown exponentially from the 7 million students served in its first year of operation. Today, more than 30 million students receive free or reduced-priced meals. That means that schools across America have served more than 224 billion lunches to children who might otherwise not have eaten.

Tens of millions of children receive free or reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program during the school year, but when school is out, fewer than 4 million receive meals through the USDA Summer Food Service Program. If you’re thinking that is a major discrepancy, you’re right.

We can, and we must, do better.

We need our representatives to bring the issue of preparing our children for success with adequate nutrition back to the forefront of congressional debate. We need to focus on healthy, regular meals for children and ensure that they have access to them during the summer and year round. While we know that right now our Congress faces many critical issues, we also recognize that the children who are knocking on Hill office doors, today, have champions in many of those halls.

Leaders like Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-Pa.) and Ranking Member Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) of the House Subcommittee on Nutrition, who also co-chair the Hunger Caucus, are offering the students welcoming audiences and listening to their personal experiences. The children’s individual accounts will arm the representatives with the valuable real-life examples that are so often needed to put a face to the many policy debates that become removed from those they most effect in Washington.

Today, Feeding America and these young students are fighting so that their friends can focus on their early morning spelling test and so their teammates can play to their fullest potential in the big afternoon basketball game. They are fighting so that this summer, no fellow student or friend of theirs goes hungry.

Kim Hamilton is Chief Impact Officer at Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization.


The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.