To develop, learn, and flourish, children need nutritious meals. However, even before the COVID-19 outbreak, children in the United States were going malnourished at alarming rates.
Many families, particularly Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous families, were unable to put food on the table due to institutional racism, poor salaries, and other injustices. Simultaneously, authorities have failed to provide appropriate funding for nutrition programs that would reach and feed all children in need.
Millions of children were left exposed to hunger and injury as a result of the crisis because they did not have constant access to nutritional meals.
15 Facts About Child Hunger in the U.S.
In 2019, 10.7 million children were food insecure, which means they lived in homes where not everyone had enough to eat. These families struggled to afford and get nutritious meals, leading them to feed their children with low-cost food, miss meals, or even go hungry.
Households with children are more likely to be hungry, particularly single-parent families.
During the pandemic, the number of children in the United States who were hungry increased from more than 10 million in 2019 to over 12 million in 2020.
Because of systematic racial inequality, black and Latino children are more than twice as likely as white children to be hungry. To reduce child hunger, we must address the disparities that make it harder for families of color to feed their children.
Because they don’t have the money to purchase adequate food, a family of four battling hunger may need extra meals each month.
84 percent of the homes served by Feeding America said they purchase the cheapest food instead of nutritious food to ensure they have enough to eat.
Children in hunger-stricken homes may be forced to depend only on hunger relief organizations like Feeding America to make ends meet.
Children of color and Hispanics were twice as likely as white children to live in food-insecure families. In 2019, over one in four Black children (24.1%) and one in five Hispanic children (19.2%) lived in families where they did not have enough food to eat, compared to one in nine white children (11.0 percent).
Younger children were also at a higher risk of becoming hungry. Households with children under the age of six were more likely than those with children under the age of 18 to lack access to healthful food.
Even with full- or part-time work, the majority of hungry families struggle to put food on the table. In 2019, 61 percent of hungry families were working, with 51 percent having at least one full-time employee. Food and other basic needs are becoming more out of reach for working families as living costs rise, incomes stagnate, and structural racism persists.
Low birth weight and birth abnormalities are connected to a lack of nutritional and healthful diet, as well as physical and mental health issues, oral health issues, and poor educational results.
To achieve their daily nutritional requirements, about half of all public school pupils depend on free or reduced-price school meals. Over 21.6 million students got free or reduced-price school lunch for the 2018-2019 school year, while 12.4 million received free or reduced-price breakfast.
While most schools currently provide free lunches to all students regardless of poverty in response to COVID-19, an increasing number of schools supplied universal meals prior to the pandemic under the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). During the 2019-2020 school year, almost 30,700 schools representing 14.9 million students took part in community eligibility, which allowed them to provide free meals to all students without having to process applications or collect meal costs. This is an increase from the almost 28,800 schools that took part in the previous school year. Serving free lunches to all kids saves administrative responsibilities and expenses, allowing schools to devote more time and money to improving nutrition programs that reach more children.
On an average weekday in October 2019, just one in 15 eligible children got after-school suppers under the Child and Adult Care Food Program’s (CACFPAt-Risk )’s Afterschool Meals component.
Only one in seven children (13%) who received free or reduced-price lunch during the 2018-2019 school year were reached by the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) via the NSLP in summer 2019. (see Table 11). This is the fourth year in a row that summer nutrition program participation has decreased.
What are the Consequences of Kids Going Hungry
Children who do not obtain enough food, particularly during their first three years, have a significant disadvantage in life. Children who are hungry are more likely to be hospitalized, and they are more prone to develop health problems such as anemia and asthma. Kids who skip meals as they grow up are more likely to have troubles in school and in other social settings.
Child malnutrition was a problem even before the COVID-19 outbreak, and it has only become worse since then. Millions of children have been left without dependable access to inexpensive meals as a result of widespread school and child care closures, while historic job losses have made it even more difficult for families to put food on the table at home. Child hunger is now at dangerously high levels.
Rising child hunger will damage our children’s development and community success for years to come if nutrition support is not extended and increased throughout the pandemic and beyond.