Skip to Content

Teaching kids about hunger (even when they’re not hungry)

Having enough food has never been something I’ve needed to worry about. As a kid, I’m not sure it ever even really occurred to me, and even in our leanest adult years, Mr. FG and I have always had enough to eat.

IMG_5054 It might not have been 5-star restaurant food (and we certainly have had stages in our life where we almost NEVER could afford to eat out), but we’ve never gone hungry, and by extension, neither have our kids.

This is a place of pretty great privilege…to have transportation to a clean, affordable, nearby grocery store and to have the time and skills necessary to prepare meals from cheap staples.

using up leftovers with salad

I don’t think this is necessarily bad for my kids (Who wants their kids to be without privileges?), but what’s important, I think, is for them (and us adults too!) to be able to SEE the privileges we have for what they are.

Usually, seeing people with fewer privileges opens our eyes a bit.

This is especially the case when we see individuals rather than an amorphous group of hungry people. When we hear people’s stories and look into their eyes, most of us will indeed be moved with compassion.

For instance, when Lisey was about 7 or 8 years old, her children’s news magazine had a story about a family in Haiti who had so little to eat, they resorted to making dirt cookies. She brought the magazine to me and said, “Mommy, if I ever went to visit those people, I would want to bring my bank and give them some money.”

(Since we loved her compassionate response but couldn’t personally bring her bank to Haiti, we helped her donate to an organization that brings livestock, seeds, and training to impoverished people in Haiti.)

Hunger Here at Home

When I watched this SheKnows video about hunger in America, I felt those same stirrings of compassion that Lisey experienced.

Hungry families aren’t just a statistic…they are real families, with stories that made me cry, and they live in neighborhoods all around us.

Though we (and I include my own family here!) tend to think mostly of hungry people who live in far-away countries, the sad truth is that 1 in 5 American kids come from homes that don’t have food security.

How do we make our kids aware?

The people over at SheKnows had a great a idea: give kids a poverty-level budget and have them go try to buy healthy groceries to last for a week. Check it out:

Seeing the small amount of food that can be purchased with $36.50 is a great object lesson for kids, who so frequently learn by seeing.

(In a similar vein, Katy from The Non Consumer Advocate gives herself a challenge each year to live on a food stamp budget for a month in order to better understand what it’s like.)

I think it’s also helpful for kids to know people who work to relieve hunger. We have a family friend who helps to feed hungry people in Nashville, and as we pray for him and give to his ministry, this helps to keep hunger on our children’s radar.

And, of course, I think there’s value in faithfully talking to our kids about food and pointing out what an enormous blessing it is to have so much food available to us. I know sometimes it seems like kids aren’t really listening, but they do absorb a generous portion of what we say.

  Room for Growth

Though we’ve made efforts to help our kids be aware of the hunger that’s around the globe, we could definitely do a better job of helping them (and ourselves!) see that child hunger exists on a more local level too.

Project Sunlight, a movement that works to build a world where everyone lives well (and sustainably) has some great suggestions about how to get involved in fighting hunger here at home.

Share A Meal  Sustainable Living  Unilever Project Sunlight USA - Mozilla Firefox 11222014 125533 PM

My favorite is the idea to partner with local organizations. I’m a big fan of localized aid because I think these organizations often have a really great feel for what the community’s needs are and how to meet those needs.

Inspired by watching the above videos, I found a food pantry/community aid organization in our local area, and I’m going to take my kids out and have them help me shop for some food to donate.

Would you consider joining me in the #ShareAMeal challenge?

The #ShareAMeal site has a food pantry location tool to help you find a food pantry in your neighborhood, or you could also take one of the other #ShareAMeal challenges.

If you feel like there’s just no room in your budget to help the hungry, could I encourage you to take a look at your food waste?


Well, the average American family throws away about $1500 worth of food every single year. Imagine what could happen if we all bought only what we needed, used it wisely, and then put our saved grocery money toward helping to feed hungry people!

To give you an idea of the possible impact, check out this picture of $1500 worth of food from One Hundred Dollars a Month. SaveitSunday-Food-Waste

If we shaved our food waste by even 25-50%, we could feed so many kids! Every little bit helps.

If you need some help getting started on food waste reduction, here are my top ten tips to stop food waste. Give ’em a try, and share some of your savings with hungry kids in your neighborhood, city, or town.


I’d love to hear from you! How do YOU educate your children about hunger? And I’d also love to hear of ways that you help the hungry in your community.


About SheKnows’ Hatch, the Hatch Hunger Project and Unilever Project Sunlight:

SheKnows’ Hatch teamed with Unilever Project Sunlight to help families build awareness and take action around child hunger in America. The facts are startling: 16 million kids living in the United States don’t know where their next meal is coming from. That equates to one in every five children – enough to fill 18,000 school buses and 223 football stadiums. On average, those who live in food-insecure households have only $36.50 to spend on groceries every week. That means that 80 percent of children may not understand the everyday struggle their peers – many of whom could be their own friends or neighbors – confront when there’s not enough food on the table. The Hatch Hunger and Project Sunlight video and workshop aims to create empathy by showing kids what it means to shop for healthy, filling meals for an entire week on a thrifty budget. It teaches important math and teamwork skills. Finally, it is about action, empowering kids to have a positive impact on their community to  Share A Meal  with a family in need and donating food and canned goods to local food banks.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Jen Y

Wednesday 3rd of December 2014

I grew up poor & going to food banks with my parents for food. I remember going to youth activities with my sisters & the youth group would stop at Dairy queen for a treat while we usually sat outside waitng because we really did not have even enough money for an ice cream cone (sometimes a friend would buy us a treat but no one wanted to do that for all of us every month - something I really don't understand now because I would gladly do that for a friend's kid..once a month would be so little). I must add, we never went hungry. My parents grew a huge garden & my mom was amazing at stretching nothing into something. We may have only drank watered down canned milk or had very little meat but we did eat.

In teaching my son about serving others we volunteered once a week at a local food bank for 10 years - from the time he was 10 yrs old until he finished high school. I volunteered a few yrs after that until I hurt my back & couldn't do the heavy lifting. There is a balancing act you have to walk when doing this with your kids. Early on my son wanted to help everyone. I remember a little girl coming in with her mom to pick up their groceries we had packed for them. She exclaimed when we told her what was theirs; 'Mom, is all of this ours?! this is better than Christmas!" the shocked look on my son's face said it all & he learned a great lesson that day. But as he grew older he also began to see those who take advantage of the system. People came in openly admitting they had spent their paycheck at the local casino & didn't have money to feed their kids. It's hard to keep from being cynical when many of the clients are like that. Having been on both sides I do believe we have to be tough at times & careful about who we help. It does mean some people go hungry because of the bad choices they've made. But, I taught my son that I believe Christ would have us feed anyone who is hungry, to always share whether it's deserved or not....if someone asks me personally for food I can't turn them down even when I know it's their own fault they don't have it. We had lots of talks about how people get into situations where they need help so l ots of great lessons learned as he became an adult.

I firmly believe in helping local organizations the most. It can be more certain that it goes to the people. It also gives you places to turn to when someone you meet needs help.

Sorry so long! I'm veyr glad to see families teaching this to their children.


Tuesday 2nd of December 2014

We are a family of 5, and we spend about $250/month on food. I shop sales, use coupons, and stock up on good deals. I know, this food budget is way lower than the food stamp budget, but we are eating lots for fruits and veggies, whole grain, and don't waste anything. The little amount that otherwise would be thrown out, goes to my chickens. We currently have 18 laying chickens, and about 25 chicks that should start laying in about a month. I sell the extra eggs and use that money towards the chickens food. and the grass and the veggie scraps are free. We buy very little meat, because we use lots of eggs. And we also don't buy juice or soda. We grow lots of fruit and veggies, and I freeze some. Our summer food spending is even lower, because of the garden and the fruit trees. It takes lots of work, but I just don't have room in my budget for more spending.


Tuesday 2nd of December 2014

Our local food bank that's listed is big. I always wonder if it's going to the right people and the process isn't being abused. I would give more if I was sure it was being distributed to those in need. How can you tell?


Tuesday 2nd of December 2014

I volunteer at our local food bank four hours a week. It's a great way to get a behind the scenes look at your food bank and meet some of the people working (and living) in the trenches.

Keep in mind though, that "the right people" may not fit precisely with your ideal image of "the deserving poor".


Tuesday 2nd of December 2014

I donate a small amount every month to a local organisation called the Tafel (literally "Table"). Every town in Germany has a Tafel, I think. It's something similar to a food bank/food pantry. It's only ten euro a month but I know that even small regular amounts are very important to charities and allow them to plan better than one-off larger donations (nothing wrong with one-off larger donations, mind, but difficult to plan a budget around them). They provide food to families in need and also things like cooking classes. They also have a lot of schemes in place with various places like supermarkets to get access to, for example, food that will shortly be out of date and would otherwise be thrown out, or you can buy a bag of basic, non-brand foodstuffs that has already been assembled and leave it at the checkout. My work also gets involved at this time of year and collects boxes of dried foodstuffs to be distributed by a local chapter of the Tafel so that families in need can have a bit extra over the holiday period. So I take ten euro to Aldi and see how far I can make it stretch on basics and then spend about the same again on christmassy treats, gingerbread and chocolate santas and so on. It can't all be just about another packet of dried beans, now, can it?


Tuesday 2nd of December 2014

Yes! I'm going to shop at Aldi for our donations too. And I found a list detailing things that food banks usually need (and that people don't often donate), so I'm going to use that list to help me.

Christmas-y treats are a great idea!


Tuesday 2nd of December 2014

This is very near and dear to my heart so thank you for writing this post. Sadly, we live in a low socioeconomic city where 80% of the kids at school qualify for free lunches (and everyone receives free breakfast sponsored by the state). Even still, I know many of these kids go home hungry and don't have food for dinner or the weekend. I eat lunch everyday with my kindergartener (she has special needs and failure to thrive so its critical that I make sure she eats at school). We are joined by a little boy from her class that has food allergies so he cannot eat in the cafeteria. He has virtually no food in his lunch. Yesterday he only had a small package of crackers w/fake cheese and a packet of fruit snacks. It couldn't have been more than 110 calories total. This is pretty typical. I've been packing "extra" fruit in Ellie's lunch for him and wish I could do more but can't due to his allergies. Last night at dinner we were discussing hungry kids with my 9 year old because I know he sees it at school too. It is easy to forget that there are so many hungry kids right here in our backyard, but I see it everyday. It is definitely a real problem.


Tuesday 2nd of December 2014

So, I'm a recently widowed mom with 5 young kids. My second child, a 7 year old son, eats about as well as the poor kid in your child's class. The problem is not access to food. I cook most of my food from scratch (ok, I did much better at the before my husband died earlier this year - but we still eat well). I have 2 freezers full of food, a pantry so full I can't fit any more food in it (largely home canned food from the garden), and plenty of healthy left overs in the fridge that he can take. Besides that, he qualifies for both free lunch and free breakfast (he doesn't know that, he thinks I just put money on his lunch account every now and then - I don't want the kids thinking that food comes from the government when we have a house full of food). He won't eat the school lunches. I have tried to talk him into getting one, but he won't even look at it.

The problem with his lunches is that he won't take anything else to school to eat. I offer to make him a sandwich most days, but they come home half eaten (if that much). On non-sandwich days all he wants to take are those icky crackers with fake cheese and sometimes I can add a snack bag with some goldfish and nuts in it (about 1/4 cup worth total - he won't take more). I bought several different types of prepackaged snacks in an effort to bribe the kid to eat, but he won't take them to school. Today all he wanted was 4 mini pickles in a ziplock bag. I have stuffed more food in his lunch box when he wasn't looking, offered to send him with his favorite pasta, rice or other favorite left overs. He just won't take it. When he finds hidden foods, he pulls them out of his lunch box and throws them on the counter in a huff, practically yelling at me that he doesn't want to take that food (food that he loves to eat for a snack or for dinner).

Sometimes kids go hungry because they don't want to eat.


Tuesday 2nd of December 2014

I'm sorry to hear about the little guy but angry too. So he has food allergies, that's not my problem. What he is given, is. Fruit snacks, they run at least $2 a box, at least. Those crackers, made by Lance I think. Again, not cheap. What is wrong with some leftovers, say veggies, rice, chicken etc? Those could be bought and prepared for a lot less than crackers and fruit snacks. Their nutrition would be far superior. Kids that don't have enough to eat don't learn as well, sad but true. I'll leave it at that, I'm too riled up.


Tuesday 2nd of December 2014

Aww, I'm so sad for that little guy. Could you bring duplicates of what he brings so that he's got the same stuff, just more of it?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.