11 Facts that prove childhood hunger is a national health crisis

Jun 14, 2015 at 9:00 p.m. ET

Millions of children in the United States are going hungry. They start the school day with empty bellies. They go to bed hungry, or get empty, cheap calories with little nutrition to support their growing bodies. And most tragically, none of the causes of their food insecurity are their fault. Feeding America's kids should be a priority for all of us. Here are few statistics to help put this national crisis into perspective and what you can do to help.

1. Food insecurity impacts more than 16 million American children, one out of five kids. In some states, that figure is as high as one out of three.

2. Hunger costs the American economy $167 billion every year, according to the Center for American Progress, in lost wages, economic development and increased health care costs.

3. More than 30 million children eat a school lunch every day and more than 13 million eat school breakfast.

4. There are 21 million low-income children who rely on free or reduced-price lunches to meet their nutritional needs.

5. Only 3 million low-income children, or about 1.9 percent of children in need, receive free meals over the summer when school is out of session.

6. More than half of kids in public schools in 2013 come from low-income families, according to a study from the Southern Education Foundation. By comparison, in 1989 only one-third of kids in public school lived in poverty.

7. Three out of four public school teachers say students regularly come to their classrooms hungry, and 81 percent say it happens at least once a week; teachers report spending an average of $35 every month to feed their hungry students.

8. Of SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) recipients, more than two-thirds of benefits go to households with children.

9. Children make up about 24 percent of the population, but make up a full one-third of the U.S. poor.

10. Kids who eat breakfast will, on average, attend 1.5 more school days a year than kids who don't.

11. Children who are hungry are likely to be sick more often, will learn less, show higher levels of behavioral and emotional problems, feel anxious and behave more aggressively.

Finally, urge your local representative to support national food access initiatives. Vote for and advocate on behalf of institutions that are dedicated to solving the issue of hunger in America.

This post was brought to you by Pacific Foods. Help Pacific put an end to childhood hunger. Visit NourishEveryBody.org to learn how.

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