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Witnesses to Hunger

Posted by Elyssa Koidin  

05:41 PM May 27, 2010

1 in 4 children in the United States currently live in families that struggle to put food on the table. Still, the day-to-day struggles of these children and their parents is kept out of sight of many Americans. Unless you are one of the 17 million children who go without a nutritious meal each day, you may not fully understand the despair and hardship these families face. The Witnesses to Hunger project was created to bring the plight of hunger into focus.

Witnesses to Hunger is a Philadelphia-based project, started by the Drexel University School of Public Health, designed to show the faces and struggles of hunger in the United States. Forty mothers and caregivers of young children were provided with digital cameras to document the day-to-day lives of families living in poverty with food insecurity. As their website states "What these women know-and what their pictures show-is how hard it is to nourish a child when every day presents limited opportunities and impossible trade-offs: rent of medicine, heat or breakfast, diapers or fresh fruit." The photograph exhibit of the pictures taken during the project is traveling around the country, bringing the images of Philadelphia's poor to all Americans. To view their full photo gallery please go here.

The women of Witnesses to Hunger also have set out to unveil the face of hunger.  Thirty of the forty women have jobs, but in most cases cannot earn a living wage and therefore need to rely on assistance programs like food stamps, WIC, and Medicaid. Still, a number of the women have voiced frustration with the fact that when increase their number of hours or a second job they end up making "too much money" to qualify for food assistance even though they continue to struggle to provide for their families. 

Some of the families are without food almost all the time. Others have pockets throughout the month where their food stamps run out and they have trouble providing their children with breakfast or dinner. Yet others are concerned that the only meals they provide are unhealthy or incomplete (ex. cereal without milk). These photos bring to light the hidden fact that food insecurity doesn't just affect a child's comfort level or health, but their entire future. A December 2009 Washington Post article on child hunger states "Even when children are not hungry, studies have found that slight shortages of food in their homes are associated with serious problems. Babies and toddlers in those homes are far more likely to be hospitalized than children in families with similar incomes but adequate food. School-age children tend to learn and grow more slowly, and to get into trouble more often. Teenage girls are more prone to be depressed or even flirt with thoughts of suicide."

The Witnesses to Hunger project also serves as a living testimony to the importance of a well-funded child nutrition reauthorization bill. In order to urge your Members of Congress to pass a well-funded child nutrition bill that provides further funding for access and nutrition programs please send a letter to your Members of Congress today.

If you have any questions or for additional information please contact Elyssa Koidin, Senior Policy Associate with the JCPA.

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