Childhood Hunger: The Problem

The Problem

No child should grow up hungry in America, but more than 16 million children – that’s one in five – struggles with hunger. Nearly half of all people who use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps) are kids. Hunger prevents kids from reaching their full potential and it’s an epidemic that’s threatening America’s future. 21 million U.S. kids receive a free or reduced-price school lunch, but only half of those kids also get breakfast, even though they’re eligible. And only 1 in 7 kids who get free and reduced-price school lunches also receive summer meals. Hunger has a huge effect on how a child performs at school. In fact, 9 out of 10 teachers say having a healthy breakfast is key to academic achievement.


Consider What’s At Stake

Children who struggle with hunger don’t do as well in school. Instead of coming to class ready to learn, a hungry child is focused on her empty stomach. Kids who don’t start their day with a nutritious breakfast are more likely to be sick and miss class than their peers, which prevents them from excelling academically. A hungry child is less likely to graduate from high school and go on to college, which has a negative impact on her economic future. If this happens, then twenty years from now, she’s much less likely to be able to earn enough to feed her family.

Principal McElhaney from Maryland started an innovative breakfast program at his school three years ago with the help of the No Kid Hungry campaign. He is witnessing the effects of kids accessing a healthy breakfast every day.

Through the First Class Breakfast Initiative, Maryland Meals for Achievement and other efforts, the number of kids eating a free or reduced-price school breakfast daily in Maryland increased by more than 30,000 students between 2010 and 2012. More than 130 Maryland schools have moved breakfast out of the cafeteria in order to make it part of the school day, an innovative way to maximize participation among eligible students.

The Arkansas No Kid Hungry campaign is connecting more kids to the summer meals program as part of our strategy to end childhood hunger. Since 2010, the number of summer meals sites across the state has increased from 435 sites to more than 580 sites in 2012. During this time, the number of summer meals served to kids during the summer increased by more than 730,000 – a 41 percent increase.

To learn more about the work being done through No Kid Hungry, visit