This weekend, Sesame Street will air a one-hour special, Growing Hope Against Hunger, that features a new character: a Muppet who does not always get enough food to eat in her day-to-day life. The special is designed to raise awareness of childhood hunger in America, and how millions of children and their families struggle to get enough nutrition.
Ryan Roe of ToughPigs: Muppet Fans Who Grew Up, introduced the new character to that blog's readers:
There’s a new Muppet created for the special, a 7-year-old girl named Lily who meets the Sesame cast at a community garden. From the Times report, it sounds like the producers put a lot of thought into developing Lily, especially considering we’ll probably never see her after this hour.
Amy Jeanroy of Foodista summarized what Lily's character will address:
Lily will be tackling the real issue of food insecurity in America. She talks about going to the food pantry and getting free breakfast and lunches at her school. She then shares that her family doesn't always know where their next meal is coming from. These are real and sobering facts 17 million children face in America right now. In Sesame Street style, Lily will be sharing the message that anyone could be going through struggle of hunger, and that her family benefits from the support of her community.
This is not the first time Sesame Street has tackled tough social issues by introducing new characters. The show is perhaps most famous for introducing Kami, an HIV-positive character who has appeared on Takalani Sesame (the South African version of the show) and Sesame Square (the Kenyan version). She first appeared in 2002.
As someone who has blogged extensively about the issue of hunger, I applaud Sesame Street for tackling this issue. This is a tough one to handle in a way that will both make sense for kids who have enough to eat, and that will potentially make kids who don't get enough to eat less ashamed of their situation.
Here's a highlight reel from the program. Fair warning...this video brought me to tears, so I'd recommend having tissues nearby if you're soft-hearted.
On SFoodie, Jonathan Kauffman also cheered the special, but wondered how broad its reach will be, and who Sesame Street intends to be the audience:
...how many parents of children living in food-insecure homes will sit their children in front of the television at 7 p.m. on a Sunday to show their kid that they're not alone? The airtime suggests the episode is designed more to raise empathy in non-food-insecure households.
Jennifer of Roads to Justice North Carolina also wonders whether this character is meant to help kids who have enough to eat understand the issue, or whether she's meant to help those kids who go hungry feel heard:
Sesame Street and other PBS shows seems to be a rare area where people living in poverty as well as the affluent and educated share an interest. Will this character reach children who don’t understand hunger as well as the kids for whom hunger is a regular concern?
Ana Flores of SpanglishBaby thinks it's critical that her daughterwho does get plenty to eatwatch the special.
I need for her to grasp how ridiculously lucky and blessed she is to get to choose if she wants a quesadilla or chicken soup for dinner. I want her to know her trips to Disneyland and the movies are truly very special and something to be thankful for everyday. I want her to know she’s lucky to not be part of 1 out of 4 children in the U.S that have “limited or uncertain access to affordable and nutritious food.”
Honeysmoke is waiting until she and her children watch the special to decide whether Sesame Street's approach is successful:
I wasn’t sure what to think when I first heard about Lily. Some children don’t know they grew up poor until they are much older, while others are keenly aware of their upbringing as it’s happening. I’ll be watching with Simone and Nadia to see what I think.
Growing Hope Against Hunger will air on Sunday, October 9, at 7 p.m. on PBS. Check your local listings for the right channel. Parents and caregivers who would like supporting materials to go with the program can find them on Sesame Street's website.
Will you watch Growing Hope Against Hunger with your kids? Share your thoughts on this upcoming specialand your opinions of it after you watch itin the comments below.
Image Credit: ©2011 Sesame Workshop. Photo by: Gil Vaknin
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