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5 Facts About Hungry Children in America



Millions of Americans live in households that struggle against hunger, and food insecurity has no boundaries. Hunger impacts society’s most vulnerable members across the country, including children. As parents are forced to choose between feeding their children three meals a day and paying essential bills, such as rent and electricity, chronic hunger can have serious effects on a child’s health and development. 

Let’s explore some statistics about hunger among kids.

5 Stats About Hungry Children in America 

1. Eleven million children face hunger in the U.S. 

Households with children are more likely to be food insecure than homes with adults only. Fourteen percent of U.S. households with children were considered food insecure in 2018—meaning these families didn’t have enough resources to provide food for every family member to lead a thriving, healthy life. This means one in seven children may not know when they’ll eat their next meal. 

2. Food-insecure kids face a higher risk of developing asthma.

Children who don’t get enough to eat face higher risks of adverse medical conditions, including asthma. Research indicates that children in food-insecure households experience lifetime asthma diagnoses and depressive symptoms at a higher rate than children in food-secure households. The reasons for this are complex, but one study found that children in households facing food insecurity in the year before kindergarten and in second grade were 18 percent and 55 percent more likely to suffer from asthma, respectively.

3. Hungry children are more likely to repeat a grade in elementary school.

Children who face hunger also face barriers to educational success, including being left behind a grade and experiencing developmental impairments in areas such as language and motor skills. A strong link has been found between chronic hunger, school absenteeism, and poor academic achievement. In fact, a 2017 analysis found that students from food-insecure households were 57 percent more likely to be absent from school compared to students from food-secure households.

Join us in the fight against hunger and make a donation to help provide  nourishing food to those in need. Learn more →

4. Nearly 30 million children in the U.S. rely on free or reduced-price lunch at school.

Nearly 30 million school-aged kids relied on free or reduced-price lunch at school in 2018. The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service offers additional assistance through programs such as the School Breakfast Program (SBP). Schools served more than 2.4 billion breakfasts to children across the country in 2018 through the SBP. However, unless these children have access to supplemental meal programs, they may be missing a lot of meals when school is out during the summer, on weekends, and during breaks. 

In Westchester County alone, 60,000 children living in poverty qualify for free or reduced-price school lunch. Feeding Westchester’s BackPack Program aims to supplement children’s diets when they are away from school by providing nutritious, kid-friendly, and easy-to-prepare food for the weekends.  

5. Food insecurity has been linked to mental health issues among youth.

Chronic hunger has significant implications for the emotional and psychological well-being of children. Research has found that as the severity of household food insecurity increases, so do the odds of children having a mental disorder. 

Hunger Assistance for Our Children 

With so many young people facing uncertainty about what they’ll get to eat on a daily basis, hunger relief agencies and specialized programs provide much-needed nourishment to millions of hungry children in America. Federal programs such as SNAP {link to SNAP blog post TBD} and the USDA Summer Food Service Program give families better access to healthy food for themselves and their children. Additionally, Feeding America’s food assistance initiatives geared toward families, including the School Pantry Program, help alleviate childhood hunger. 

Feeding Westchester works hard to ensure that children in the area don’t go to bed hungry. In addition to our BackPack Program, kids also benefit from our Mobile Food Pantry and Food Assistance Programs. If you’d like to help us better serve the children facing food insecurity throughout Westchester, consider making a donation today.

There are a number of ways to fight hunger in your community, including organizing a food drive and volunteering at your local pantry. Every little bit of effort helps in keeping the children of America well fed and thriving.

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