Remember the hungry kids in America on Thanksgiving

Here is the fabled Thanksgiving image: The extended family gathers around a roasted turkey set on a table of assorted vegetables and starches, gravy boat at the ready, glasses filled with refreshing beverages. Father leads the family in a prayer. “Dear Lord,” Dad says in a somber tone, “please aid those people, particularly children, around the world who are hungry so that they might know your love and bounty.”

Today, many of those hungry children are right here at home.

According to World Hunger Education Service, 14.5 percent of American households in 2010 could be classified as “food insecure,” the highest ever recorded in the United States since the government began gathering this statistic in 1995. (The government defines “food insecurity” as the “limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.” It shies away from the word “hunger,” but semantic niceties do not fill a stomach any better than using the word that best describes the condition.)

Last year, more than 16 million children lived in food-insecure households. Twenty percent or more of the child population in 40 states and the District of Columbia lived in food-insecure household. The highest were D.C. and Oregon, both with more than 30 percent of their child population going underfed or unfed more times than imaginable in a country that sees itself as the Shining City on the Hill.

We are at the precipice of creating Generation Hungry.

There is a mountain of evidence that underfed and malnourished children do more poorly in school and are less likely to achieve academically.

Even the most callous person can see the damage the spiraling rate of hungry children will have on this country. To remain competitive in the global marketplace, the United States can ill afford to see so many children hampered by a lack of food.

In giving thanks for what we have, we need to commit ourselves to the principle that no child should go hungry in the land of plenty.

Fred McKissack is a former Progressive magazine editor and editorial writer who lives in Fort Wayne, Ind. He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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