Child hunger in America

Tragedy struck on the Fourth of July

Peter hasn’t had much of a childhood. Meeting him and his family broke my heart. Let me share with you what I learned from my time with them.

When he was just 9 years old, a tragedy struck Peter’s family. They went from “doing really well” to struggling to get enough to eat. Not to mention the immense emotional toll on the whole family. (Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those we serve.)

Now, they are trapped in poverty because of this one tragic event:

On July 4, 2012, at a family cookout, Peter told me his dad “was trying to split up a fight.” One of the men involved got in his truck and ran over his dad — twice. Peter’s sister, Rhea, even witnessed the horror — and she was just 11 years old.

“It broke him in half,” explains Peter’s mom, Linda. “He is paralyzed from the waist down.”

Peter’s dad went from working on a farm every day and providing for his family to being confined to a wheelchair, dependent on his family for nearly everything.

Now, this family of four is trying to survive on Linda’s minimum wage income, disability and food stamps. Getting enough to eat is a constant problem — let alone enough nutritious food for two growing teenagers.

“We have to use like beans and taters a lot,” Peter says. “That’s about usually all we got to eat.”

And Peter is having a tough time in school. It’s hard to concentrate in class when he’s hungry. His dream is to join the National Guard so he can “help people.” But he has to get through school first.

“I’m in 7th, supposed to be in 9th,” he says. “I just want it to end.”

Peter and his family are living in poverty — real poverty that many Americans would like to believe doesn’t happen in our country. But it does and it’s heartbreaking to see.

And when the situation is this hard, the kids are very aware of how bad it is.

“We don’t have very much money to be able to get like food and drinks and stuff like that,” Peter shares. “And we have to scrape up the change or wait ‘til my mom gets her paycheck.”

Peter hesitantly admits to me that he has been so hungry that he gets a “big stomachache.” He’s small for his age and looks like he doesn’t get enough nutritious food. Peter also has scoliosis that causes “a lot of pain” at times.

Despite his own challenges, Peter is a very responsible, caring son. He does all he can to help his mom with chores around the house and take care of his dad. Peter worries about him. He says:

“I sleep on the floor because my dad, he’s hurt and in case anything happens, I’ll be right there.”

— Peter

I saw Peter’s bed. It’s a pile of blankets. But he finds the good in it, saying the floor is like a very firm mattress and it helps with his scoliosis pain.

When I asked Peter what he wants most for his family, he told me:

“I wish that we had a little bit more food and a little bit more money. And I wish that my dad could walk again.”

I wish we could help Peter’s dad walk again. But what you and I can do is give them a little more hope for the future by meeting their urgent need for food and other household essentials. Simple items like cereal, canned vegetables, spaghetti and toilet paper can make a big difference for Peter and his family.

You can make a difference for a family trapped in poverty

Please give today to help feed hungry children like Peter and Rhea.

When we gave this family boxes of food and essentials, I’ve never seen the kind of response we got. Peter and Rhea tore into that box of food like it was Christmas morning.

Your gift today can provide food and essentials that will put smiles on the faces of children like these two.

28808-blog image-rhea and peter

Donate

You can provide food and essentials for hungry children like Peter and Rhea!

Child Hunger in America: Thomas and James’ story

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.”

You can stand in the gap for a family in desperate need

Please give today to help feed hungry children like James, Thomas and their brothers and sisters. Your gift can provide boxes filled with food and essentials that will put smiles on the faces of children like James.

Donate

You can provide food and essentials for hungry children like Thomas and James!

Update From #AroundTheWorldIn30Days

Despite meeting MANY amazing children and families on my travels for Feed the Children, there’s always that “one” who sticks with you forever. Just one week into my #aroundtheworldin30days tour, I met the “one” in a remote village in Uganda. His name is Daniel. And he is the embodiment of why the work of Feed the Children must continue!

Sick and severely malnourished, this hurting child would seemingly have hated being passed from person to person.

But not little Daniel! He just nuzzled in closer to me, despite his physical pain. That’s because he’s as starved for love and affection as he is for food.

In his short two-and-a-half years of life, Daniel has experienced more loss and suffering than most of us will in a lifetime.

Abandoned months ago by his mother – and with his father incarcerated – he and his six-year-old sister were left in the care of a sick, aged grandmother who did not have the means or physical strength to care for these children.

And so they starved.

Daniel is puffy, with chubby cheeks – but not because he’s a healthy baby. This is a common “look” for children who are malnourished – caused by edema, a condition where the body swells. But Daniel is actually way below where he should be physically for a two-and-a-half year old, which is another result of hunger known as stunting. This little boy was also extremely lethargic from his weakened state. Healthy toddlers are typically all over the place, jumping, getting into things, playing. Not Daniel. He just wanted to rest his weary body in the arms of someone willing to show him love.

Although I can’t produce a “statistic” to prove it, I’m convinced abandoned and orphaned children die as much from a lack of love and the resulting heartache as they do from malnutrition and sickness. It’s a heartbreaking reality that the ravages of HIV, extreme poverty, and many other social and economic circumstances oftentimes force parents to abandon their children.

I was glad, however, to learn that Daniel’s future is looking brighter. Thankfully, an aunt and uncle were willing to take in Daniel and his sister. And he is now receiving nutritional support from a local health clinic, which is helping him get stronger. Plus, Feed the Children Uganda has been working hard in Daniel’s community to start feeding and other livelihoods projects – which will dramatically change the lives of thousands of children.

So the good news is, even though he still has a long road of recovery ahead of him, there is hope for my new little friend.

But the need is URGENT for the work of Feed the Children to reach Daniel’s community as soon as possible. SO many children and families are in dire need of food, clean water, education, and livelihoods development. Without these essentials of life, children like Daniel can die from malnutrition. Or, if they’re fortunate enough to live, they face a bleak future because of the oppressive cycle of poverty they are trapped in. BUT with help, there is HOPE for people in struggling communities like this to turn things around and become self-sustaining.

I’ll never forget this beautiful little boy. And I pray that with the continued support of our partners, one day I can return to Daniel’s village and see him healthy, in school, laughing, playing – and facing a brighter future!

This is the reason I’m sent on these trips – to capture the stories of the children whom we are serving, and to let our partners know that YOU are the reason lives are being saved and changed. Let’s not forget little Daniel. And let’s keep moving forward in this important work!

 

 

International Travel: Impressions

In our social-media, digitally-obsessed world, there’s no lack of opportunity of getting seen or heard. Countless times throughout the day we can post about every aspect of our lives and get a response. But not everyone has this opportunity.

As a Producer, Writer, and Photographer for Feed the Children, I’ve had the life-changing opportunity to travel the world and produce programs and videos, as well as photograph our work internationally. Over the years, I’ve interviewed thousands of people that we serve — from many countries, tribes, villages, slums — you name it. Sadly, many of these people are far removed from the conscience of the world. They have no electricity, no iPhones, iPads, computers — in essence, no voice in our modern culture. Yet, despite the enormous hardships and suffering they endure on a daily basis, they are truly some of the strongest people I’ve ever met.

I’m getting ready once again for a very big trip. I’ll be traveling with two other videographers/photographers to Kenya, Uganda, and the Philippines for the entire month of November – which will be the longest and farthest trip I’ve taken so far in my tenure at Feed the Children.

Tanya M. ROloff Photography
Tanya M. Roloff Photography

But despite the ENORMOUS task of preparing to be gone that long, I am driven to push through all the details — packing, dangers, exhaustion, thousands of miles of travel, and obstacles — for two main reasons. The first reason is to continue to bring help and hope to the many children and families who do not have access to food and life’s essentials. This is the mission of Feed the Children, and the heart of God as well, and is what drives me into the oftentimes dangerous places we go to get the stories that help us continue to raise awareness and support for the work Feed the Children does.

And the second reason is to give these amazing children and people a voice. I was doing a story in El Salvador a few years back and one of our security guards who accompanied us told me at the end of our trip that it was a great thing we were doing by interviewing and talking to the families. He sort of got emotional and said, “Were it not for us getting their story, they might die having never been known.”

“Die having never been known.” Those words are permanently marked on my heart. I’ll never forget them. This, to me, is one of the biggest rewards of my work — to give these resilient, beautiful, talented, incredible people a voice and a platform to share their struggles, hopes, dreams, pains, fears … a platform so many of us have at our fingertips, yet take for granted. Truth be told, they’re always the ones that help me more than I could ever imagine by allowing me to tell their stories. And despite all the jet-lag, sickness, and every other challenge we face, it’s worth it all in the end! I take a piece of them with me everywhere I go. They’ve left an indelible impression on my heart and I can’t wait for what lies ahead.