I have three goals today:
1. To inform you.
2. To make you angry.
3. To make you angry enough to Take Action.
If I can accomplish that with this 15 minute read, then I have really accomplished something with my ramblings. Please let me know via my blog, social media, email, letter or carrier pigeon, if i accomplished the goal.
Thank you in advance.
- Jay Riggs
Ok, here we go. Get ready, this is a long post for me. 15-20 min read. I promise the rest are shorter, but you really need to hear this.
Approximately 16 Million children in the United States of America do not know where their next meal is coming from.
They are what the Federal Government calls “food insecure”. More like “food terrified” if you ask me. How is a 10 year old, or a 7 year old supposed to react to the realism that their parents, the people they trust for everything in their lives, don’t have the answers? At the time I am writing this my two sons are 5 and 7. If you have children, this will be very easy for you to grasp, if you do not you may have to really close your eyes for a minute, and use your memory combined with your imagination to really emotionally connect with what I’m about to say.
At 5 years old, a child is just starting to become a “person”. They are developing intellect, deductive reasoning, humor, regular facial expressions, favorite things, just becoming aware that they have “choice”, in how to act, doing right or wrong, and possibly most important they are becoming “Aware”. Aware of who they are, where they live, familiar sights on the way to school, directions they go each day, aware of wearing different clothes, colors, hairstyles, aware of whether or not their parents get along or argue, aware of the differences between them and their friends in school, and most certainly aware of their favorite foods, and whether or not they are “hungry”.
However, one thing a 5 or even 7 year old is NOT aware of, is that life exists outside of their parents. To them, their parents control the universe. They don’t know how gas gets paid for, they just know their parents stop at the gas station and put it in. They do not know how the 2 hour grocery trip gets paid for, they just know it took too long and they did or did not get the toy they wanted. They do not even come close to understanding the concepts of the gas company, the electric company, the cable tv provider, how wi-fi or internet or cell phones work, all they know is Mom and Dad take care of it.
Their world of worry and concern consists of:
- will i get to watch cartoons today or not
- will i get to listen to my favorite song on the way to school or will my brother get to hear his
- will we get outdoor recess or will it rain and we have to stay inside
- will i play with my lego’s or my star wars toys when i get home
- will I get to have my after school snack, or bed night treat, or will I be naughty and not get one
And you know what? That’s how it should be. I’m not talking about being rich, just safe, secure and 3 meals per day. Some kids are rich, most middle class, some poorer, but most all of them still experience this kind of childhood. That is how I grew up. That is how my children are growing up.
But for 16 million of our nations children, or 20%, that is not how their world operates.
For 1 out of every 5 children in the richest country in the entire world, they don’t care about cartoons, or songs, or recess or even toys.
They live in true, “adult style” Fear. Fear of not knowing. Fear of not knowing if the pain in their stomach will go away for a little while today. Fear of not knowing if they do get food, if it will be spoiled or have bugs in it. Fear of not knowing even if they do get some food, when will they get more, should they eat it all, or save some for tomorrow? But the worst fear of all for these children is the fear of KNOWING.
Knowing their Mom is not able to give them the feeling of no-worry love in her eyes, that makes kids feel warm at night before they go to sleep. (because she IS worried)
KNOWING that their Dad can NOT provide that safe, secure feeling that everything is fine and they can run and play and go to sleep at night knowing everything is ok.
KNOWING that their parents are NOT the masters of the universe and can NOT magically wake up happy, make some cereal or pancakes, drive them to school, stop for some gas, smiling and singing along the way, give them a lunch to take, give them a treat after school, let them watch cartoons on a tv that works, make dinner, laugh and play and help them grow up with confidence. KNOWING that their parents are NOT like the other kids parents, but KNOWING that their parents are scared! KNOWING that their parents are worried and sad, and depressed, and embarrassed and truly scared for their children. These children grow up with a lot more than hungry tummies. They grow up with fear, worry and stress.
They grow up with more tears than joy, more sad than happy, more confusion than calm.
As adults, even as teenagers becoming aware of the larger picture, we know that the world is a complicated place and we need to learn how to enjoy the good moments, while coping with the bad……as adults. But a child?
We know that the world is not fair. We know that life is not fair. We know that pain and suffering are going to be a part of all our lives at some point. But our job as parents is to teach our children about love, trust, joy, respect, hard work, rules and rewards, so that as they grow up, they have a strong, confident foundation on which to handle things like fear, peer pressure, uncertainty, loss, injustice, even fear.
But they should not grow up with the fear first. They should be able to exist in love and security first.
Isn’t that why our nation was started? Freedom to pursue our own happiness. To create a bright future.
And that is what we did. And although it was never perfect, for 205 years, on average, this nation grew more powerful, more wealthy, less poor, less impoverished and more fed. But for the last 34 years in a row, our wealth has increased, our spending has increased, but do you know what else has increased?
That’s correct, for 34 years in a row!!!
That safe, secure, loving environment, so necessary for children to grow up with, in order to be confident, healthy, productive members of society has been in a steady decline. (while our nation has continued to grow richer and more powerful)
Let me tell you what I believe:
I believe that in America (the wealthiest nation in 10,000 years of man’s recorded history) children should be our #1 priority. Not free speech, not freedom of religion, not due process, not the right to bear arms, not even the bill of rights. Although I believe all these things are important enough for us to fight for and die for, they are still secondary to OUR CHILDREN!
I believe that since we have the food, since we have the money and since we have the ability, that we have the OBLIGATION to feed our nations children.
I believe it so much, I stopped my for-profit pursuits, learned as much as i could and devoted all I have to the cause of Ending it! Every nation on this earth has different laws, different beliefs, different constitutions. But the one thing we all have in common, is when we stop to think about it, we all will agree that our children are our most precious resource. They are young, they are innocent, they are helpless, they are the future of the human race and most of all THEY NEED US TO CARE!
Why am I so angry about this? Why do I speak with such strong language, as to compare child hunger to the bill of rights? BECAUSE FOR GOODNESS SAKE, what is wrong with us when we spend:
- 16 Billion Dollars/year on our music industry
- 55 Billion Dollars per year on our Movie Industry
- 70 Billion Dollars per year on professional Sports and related industries
(the industries I love and worked in)
- 48 Billion on chocolate and candy
- 164 Billion Dollars per year ON CIGARETTES!!!! and……
- 208 Billion Dollars per year on FAST FOOD!!!! (don’t even get me started on this…)
Not to mention the:
- 100 Billion Dollars each year that leaves the US in food aid to “other countries”,
- or worse, the 40%, (YES that’s correct, FORTY percent, of the food we grow, manufacture, package and ship inside this country) that we throw out, without ever even opening it……(did you catch that?)
We throw away 40% of ALL food grown and manufactured in the United States. Throw it out.
Are you getting angry yet?
I am. I’ve met these children face to face. I’ve held their hands, I’ve seen their fear, I’ve felt their pain and I’ve wiped away their tears with my own hands. I’ve handed them food and watched their entire demeanor change. Change from fear and embarrassment to joy. Pure joy. Not for a new toy, or a video game, or some candy. But for a bag of groceries. That thought may make you smile, But you should be disgusted.
Disgusted that these kids “childhood innocence” and joy has been stolen from them.
They can not get happy about a walk in the park, or a bird in a tree or a fish in the pond, or cartoons or a christmas tree full of presents beneath it. These children can only find a smile when they see a bag of food, donated to them by a pantry, a food bank, some organization, that becomes their entire focus of existence. And until you’ve been right there watching it, you have no idea the world they live in. What kind of 1st world, developed country do we live in, where we can blow 164 Billion dollars on a habit like smoking, that costs another 270 Billion Dollars in health care, and yet we have chosen not to spend what would be a fraction of that on our children’s health, happiness and peace of mind.
Wow am I angry while writing this…..Ok, let’s all take a deep breath….in…….out…… whew…….The reason this topic angers me so much is because it goes directly against my core belief. Live Every Moment.
I called my blog Spend Your Time Living and I teach seminars on how to find your passions in life and harness them into your work to create the maximum positive life experiences for you and those around you. And Childhood Hunger (or any age hunger for that matter) really makes “living” or joyful living, impossible. If you are always focused on, concerned about, or in just plain daily fear about what your going to eat, there is no way for you to enjoy life at all, let alone to it’s fullest. Nor are you able to help others do so, obviously.
So you can see how this is a problem for me. I have children, I believe they should come first in our nations priorities. I also believe that we can all learn to “spend our time living” and in doing so create happiness for all those around us. So when someone tells me 1 in every 5 our our nations kids is food insecure and we have all the resources to fix it, but are not not doing so….. I have a big problem with that.
Ok, so where do all these messed up, sad, scared, depressed, destined to fail and repeat the poverty cycle kids live? The inner city? The rural mountains or drought ridden farmlands of the middle US? No. They live in your neighborhood. On your street. The could even be your neighbor and because it is such an embarrassing thing in “almighty America”, they don’t tell you. They hide it. And they hide it well.
The Hidden Crisis of Hunger in the United States
is as closely guarded a secret as Area 51, who really killed JFK, or president Obama’s birth Certificate. Ask yourself this question: Before reading this article (or something from my foundation), did you really know that 1 in 5 American Children were Food Insecure?
Did you know that is 16 Million kids? Did you know that’s 49 Million total Americans counting adults and seniors? Like I said, best kept secret in the country.
Watch E or late night TV, or heck even network news. You’ll hear about the latest Hollywood blockbuster movie, the best country music has to offer, the hot new American cars coming out. You’ll hear that interest rates are coming back down and now is the time to buy or build a new home, that the new Apple iPhone and Watch are the thing to have, that electronic cigarettes are soon much better than real cigarettes so we should all try them,
and that we have problems in the middle east, we still have issues with North Korea and we better keep an eye on China and Russia.
But how much of those programs are being broken into by the emergency broadcast system to tell us our children are starving?!!! That hunger and lack of nutritious food is causing them heath problems, developmental problems, social disorders and that 20% of our future workforce is being decimated by a problem we can fix by simply increasing our tax returns 10 dollars, or by, lessening some of our Billions in spending on frivolous industries, or by feeding our kids before other nations, or heck, how about we keep doing all that stuff and just NOT THROW OUT 40% OF OUR FOOD!
There are so many ways to solve this problem today. Yes, I said today.
No medical breakthroughs are necessary. No “new food” is needed to be grown or manufactured.We don’t even need to stop spending our fun, frivolous money, or even cut our foreign aid. We really don’t even need any “new” money!
We just need to re-allocate some of the philanthropic and tax-write off dollars out there already. We just need some of our citizens, our local businesses, our medium and large corporations, a few athletes, musicians, and actors to get together with our Food Org’s and our politicians and work under a simple 3-Step premise:
1. Create Awareness
2. Feed Everyone Now (a 100% band-aid of food)
3. Create Sustainability (connect people to the many programs that already exist to help them move out of poverty)
see www.willplayforfoodfoundation.org for more details on the solution
Ok, hopefully what you just read ticked you off to the point of wanting to throw something, fire someone in office, or maybe on a more positive note, find out what you can do to JOIN THE FIGHT and make a difference. There are many ways you can help from donating and connecting businesses in your area to this cause, to simple things like sharing times on social media and volunteering. Whatever your desire and abilities there are hundreds of amazing organizations around the country for you to choose from.
If you go to www.willplayforfoodfoundation.org, and click on FoodFighters either from the top menu or the link in the footer, you can enter your email and become part of a national group of people dedicated to putting and End to Childhood Hunger in this wonderful nation of ours, within 10 years. FoodFighters will connect you with resources in your area, so you can choose the best ways for you to be involved.
I thank you for reading this and I thank you in advance for
JOINING THE FIGHT to End Childhood Hunger.
Be Blessed and Live Every Moment.