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U.S. Families on the Brink of Hunger
Illinois Ag Connection - 08/10/2017

Nearly two-thirds of low-income parents in the United States say a single unplanned expense would make it difficult to feed their families, a new report unveils.

The report, "Hunger In Our Schools," released today by No Kid Hungry, surveyed the three groups on the front lines of childhood hunger -- families, teachers and kids themselves.

The report underscores the challenges for those already facing hunger and exposes the harm posed by the mere threat of hunger.

This threat of hunger looms over 64 percent of families, and nearly 40 percent of teens themselves worry that food at home will run out before there is enough money to buy more.

Shouldering this burden of hunger has a serious impact on a child's ability to learn in school.

"My focus is different when I'm hungry," says Don, age 16. "I'm gonna be thinking about which one of my classmates has food. I'm gonna be thinking about which one of them might share."

Educators also confirm hunger's impact in the classroom.

"When a child comes to school hungry, you see behavior issues: children who are coming in crying, kids who are lashing out, kids who are being defiant to teachers," says Dr. Clint Mitchell, an elementary school principal. "You see kids who have no interest in school work."

But there is a solution. Programs like school breakfast have a significant impact on test scores, classroom behavior and the future success of students.

"No Kid Hungry and other organizations have identified these programs as the solution to ending childhood hunger in America," says Billy Shore, founder and CEO of Share Our Strength, the national anti-hunger nonprofit that runs No Kid Hungry. "We know that it works. We've seen the data, and -- more importantly -- we've seen the smiles on kids' faces."

School meal programs also relieve some of the burden for parents on the brink of a crisis.

"I've spent nights sometimes where I can't sleep, because I'm trying to figure out if I have enough to pay bills and get groceries to feed my kids," says Candice Field, a mother from Virginia.

The full "Hunger In Our Schools" report can be read online. The research was conducted in the spring of 2017 by SalterMitchell, Inc. in partnership with No Kid Hungry. More detailed notes on the methodology appear at the end of the report.

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