Hunger hides in many different places – it could be your next-door neighbor, your co-worker, or a student in your child’s class – but it is not always easy to identify. Often times we get wrapped up in our own lives that we don’t notice the signs of those close to us, who may be food insecure.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines the term “food insecurity” as households that are uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food to meet basic needs of all their members because of insufficient money or other resources. Although the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank distributes nearly 1 million pounds of food each month, throughout 11 parishes in Louisiana, 15.9% of people in our service area still remain food insecure. Of that 15.9%, 1 in 5 of these people are children fighting hunger.
Noticing signs of hunger in another person, regardless of their age, can be very difficult. However, it can be more challenging to spot hunger in younger children because they may not always tell you when there is not enough food at home. So, what can you do?
We have put together a list of patterns and behaviors to help you identify a hungry child.
- Anxiously awaiting a meal – In many cases, hungry children will rush the lunch line in the school cafeteria, they are not picky and will eat all of the food they are served.
- Hoarding snacks and food – Often times, a hungry child will take more than a “fair share,” and ask for second servings or sneak snacks to bring home.
- Physical appearance differs from other children – Physical features can indicate a lack of certain vitamins and/or food. Puffy or swollen skin can be due to a protein deficiency as well as red/cracked lips or dry itchy eyes could be from vitamin A deficiency.
- Performance and behavior – A child’s behavior is a good indicator of their home life. If a child has continuous absences, difficulty forming friendships, irritability or aggression, it may be a direct link to problems at home, with food insufficiency being a key factor.
- Talking about their home environment – Even though children may not directly say there is no food in the house, you can listen for key clues. For example, if a child says that his dad lost a job and his mom doesn’t work, the family may be in the early stages of needing help.
Recognizing the need of those around you who may be food insecure could make all the difference. There are resources available for those who are in need of help. If you or a friend is in need of food assistance, visit: https://brfoodbank.org/get-help/.