My kids often like to say, “I’m super-starving” or “I’m soooooo hungry” if they haven’t eaten in a couple of hours. When I hear these word, I gather my kids together and have a chat. I have no doubt that they may be experiencing slight hunger pangs, but they have no idea what true hunger feels like.
“You are very fortunate to have a refrigerator full of food,” I always tell them. “Some kids don’t have ANY food to eat.” My kids always sigh and promise to be more grateful for being able to eat when they want to. However, it doesn’t take long for them to revert to their old habits.
I realize that it’s easy for them to be so cavalier about food because it’s always been readily available to them. I’m more sensitive to hunger because I remember how my mother struggled to keep food on the table. As a single-mom, she worked hard to make sure that my sister and I were always fed even if it meant standing in line to get free government cheese and powdered milk. My sister and I never took food for granted because we understand how hard it could be to come by.
My kids finally started understanding how hunger impacts people after they heard a story on the radio about kids in Haiti eating mud pies. They were shocked that people would resort to eating dirt.
“When you’re REALLY hungry, you do what you have to do to survive,” I told them. I went on to explain how I’ve witnessed starving children begging for food in the streets of Indonesia and Mexico. I really surprised them when I told them that millions of children in the U.S. go to bed hungry.
“How can kids in America be hungry when we have so much food?” my 11-year old daughter asked.
“Some people simply don’t have enough money to buy food,” I told her. “In fact, some kids at your school may not have enough to eat.”
“That’s not fair,” she said. “Somebody should do something about this.”
“You’re right,” I said. “That’s why WE have to do our part to help.”
Although they were reluctant, my kids have volunteered with Meals on Wheels and the local food bank. We also try to participate in activities to feed the homeless and donate food during food drives.
I get my kids involved in to these events because I want them to teach them the value of serving others and to teach them that hunger isn’t something that is exclusive to far off places.
As parents, we sometimes wonder if the lessons we’re teaching are sinking in. My son recently gave me some confirmation that my efforts to educate him about hunger weren’t in vain.
One day, my son came home from school and told me that his classmate forgot his lunch.
“Did his mom bring some lunch for him?” Asked my wife.
“No,” said my son. “I gave him half of my sandwich and some of my chips because I didn’t want him to be hungry.”