Child Hunger in America: Thomas and James’ story

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Thomas is weary. As the oldest boy in his family, this 14-year-old carries a heavy weight on his narrow shoulders.

“We have a big family, so, we kinda run out [of food],” says Thomas (names have been changed to protect the privacy of those we serve).

“It’s not fun to be hungry. I just wish life here was better for all of us,” he continues. “And I wish there was more food for all of us, instead of all of us going hungry…”

Thomas is especially protective of his 6-year-old brother, James.

“He’s the funnest little brother anybody could have,” says Thomas. “Me and him do a lot of stuff together. We go fishing. We go walking up and down the road. We go walk in the creek. We swim. We play a lot. It’s fun.”

James agrees, saying, “I like to do things with my brother.” He also really likes their dog, Brownie.

The brothers have a special bond. As a teenage boy, Thomas is always hungry, but he often gives up his share of food for James.

“I’m thinking that, well, he needs more food than I will…,” Thomas explains. He says simply, “I love ‘em.”

Even with his big brother’s sacrifice, James still faces hunger.

“Sometimes we run low on food and I’m hungry and there’s barely any food to eat,” says James. “…when we’re low on food, I feel sad.”

Their mom, Meghan, tries her best. She’s a single mom of 7 living in a poor, rural community. She doesn’t receive any child support. Each month — each day — is a struggle.

“Sometimes I have to go hungry to feed them…I’ll eat what’s left. If there’s nothing left, then I won’t eat.”

— Meghan

“Some days I want to cry,” she says. “Some days I ask the Lord for bigger help — that’s the only thing I know to do is pray for help from the Lord.”

Like Thomas, Meghan sacrifices.

“Sometimes I have to go hungry to feed them,” she says. “I’d rather feed them than myself anyway. I mean, I’ll eat what’s left. If there’s nothing left, then I won’t eat.”

And, at times, everyone suffers.

“There’s been a couple of times they’ve — we’ve — all went to bed hungry. Yeah. And I’ve cried myself to sleep,” Meghan says. “Kids shouldn’t never have to go hungry.”

Thomas shares this burden with his mom and tries to comfort her.

“Sometimes I would wake up and I would hear that she would be crying and I would just tell her that it’s gonna be okay,” says Thomas. “And I’d actually tell her that she needs to eat too, even though sometimes she doesn’t just to feed us. And she told me that she would rather starve than us starve to death. And that kinda made me cry a little bit, too.”

“I wish there could be more food for all of us, instead of us going hungry and stuff. It’s bad.”

— Thomas

Despite all of the family’s difficulties, Thomas still has hope for a better future.

“I want to try to be a doctor with a good-paying job and support the family…,” he says.

And what does he hope for today?

“I would change mostly the way we’re living,” says Thomas. “Like there would be food on the table every night, 3 times a day.”

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