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Kids Helping Kids® Teachers & Parents

Kids Helping Kids® offers educators and parents the answers they need to talk to children about the issue of hunger in our community. Information about who the hungry really are in America, along with interesting and thought-provoking classroom activities, will help you talk about hunger. You will also find the story of Gleaners, facts about hunger from recent national and local surveys, along with links to online and downloadable puzzles and games for kids. All of these resources will help you better explain hunger issues for inquisitive students and children.

Talking About Hunger

As an educator or a parent, how do you talk to kids about hunger? First, think about what you perceive to be the stereotypical image of people that need food. There is no stereotype. Hungry people come in all shapes, sizes, colors, ages and backgrounds. Then, you can break the stereotype by proving that the problem of hunger is not isolated in cities, or limited to certain people.

The problem of hunger is as close as your doorstep. People who may never have thought they would be unable to feed their families can all too quickly be in a situation of great need. A growing population of the working poor now find they must choose between rent, medicine or food. Seniors on fixed incomes and single parents also find it necessary to depend on emergency food supplies. Natural disasters, like floods or tornadoes, to personal crises, such as home fires, job loss or illness, are reasons that individuals and families seek emergency food supplies. Gleaners works with its partner agencies to solve a problem that is growing every year.

Classroom activity 1

Have students consider the definition of hunger proposed by the Atlanta Community Food Bank:

"Hunger is the inability to acquire or consume an adequate quality or sufficient quantity of food in socially acceptable ways or the uncertainty of being able to do so."

Ask students What kinds of food would be of adequate quality? What is sufficient quantity? Explore the idea of "socially acceptable ways" of getting food.

Classroom activity 2:

Use Monopoly money to give students an idea of what it means to prepare a monthly budget for food and other necessities. Prepare five envelopes: all have ten $20 bills inside. Choose five students to act as the head of each family and give them each an envelope. This is their monthly budget. Assign four other students to act as the bank, utility company, shopping mall and grocery store. Now, tell the families that they each have to pay $80 to the bank for housing, $20 for utilities, and $20 for shopping mall items. This leaves $80 for food and other purchases. Set up a grocery store where they can purchase meals for the week. Then, introduce some variables and unexpected expenses in the scenario. Three of the families have no unexpected expenses, but one has a tree fall on their house, causing them to stay in a local shelter. Another has a parent who needs urgent medical care for a broken leg that will take a long time to heal. The parent will not be able to go to work and will not collect a pay check for the next three months. The students will quickly see that there are many reasons why people need emergency food. Discuss the choices these families have to make.

Classroom activity 3

Discussion topics for high school students: Survey results by Feeding America reveal surprising insights into who is hungry in America and in our local communities. Provide the following information, from the 2005 national and local studies, to your students:

An estimated 25.3 million people receive emergency food assistance, with the following distribution:

  • 36.4% under 18 years old
  • 10% seniors
  • 40% white
  • 38% African-American
  • 17% Hispanic
  • 61% female
  • 36% of client households have one or more adults working
  • 78% had income of 130% or below the federal poverty level
  • 42% choose between food and utilities
  • 35% choose between food and paying the rent or mortgage
  • 32% chose between medical care and food

Discussion questions

  1. What would you choose to pay: food, medical, rent or utilities, if you had to eliminate one?
  2. Why do you think there are more women receiving emergency food assistance than men?
  3. Why is it that people who are working need emergency food assistance?
  4. What resources are available in your neighborhood to assist those facing these hard choices?
  5. What can you do to address these issues?