Child Hunger in America: Travaris’ story

“Running out of food is hard,” Travaris says.

This bright and active 10-year-old has been raised by his great-grandma, Martha, since he was a baby (names have been changed to protect the privacy of those we serve). She does her best to take care of and provide for Travaris, but it’s tough on just her social security income and food stamps.

“It hurts inside that I can’t do things for him,” she says with tears in her eyes. “At times it is difficult to keep him fed.”

Travaris and Martha try to focus on the positive. They are thankful to have each other and to have a roof over their heads.

And Martha is thankful that Travaris is a good student. He’s also a talented athlete. Martha beams with pride as she talks about him.

“I have great expectations for Travaris,” she says. “He’s going to go far.”

Travaris holding a book on his lap

Travaris has so much potential.

But if he continues to struggle to get enough to eat — especially nutritious food — his future that seems so full of hope will be in jeopardy.

“Sometimes we don’t have enough money and we are always using milk, eggs and bread — so we’re always running out of those,” Travaris says.

“At times it is difficult to keep him fed.”

— Martha, Travaris’ great-grandma

Their daily struggle also means sacrificing even simple expenses like the $2 admission to watch Travaris play football.

Travaris Playing football

“It’s tough…I was sitting in my car today watching the game,” Martha says. “I mean that’s just the way it is. There’s not money there when you need it for extracurricular activities.”

Because Martha knows that $2 can go toward buying Travaris milk or eggs — and providing nutritious food for him has to take priority.

“My granny tries hard to get me the foods that I would like to eat,” Travaris explains, but “…at the end of the month we are always out of money so she tries hard to get more food.”

You can stand in the gap for a family in need

You can make sure families like Martha and Travaris have the food and essentials they so urgently need. Without our help, families often run out. The end of the month is always the worst.

“The last week and a half there’s no money left — it’s gone,” says Martha.

Please step in and fill the gap for families like this! Give today.

Travaris and grandma

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You can provide food and essentials for a child like Travaris!

Hunger in America: Running out of food

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Cathy loves her children. She describes 3-year-old Saul as “very smart” and 2-year-old Carla as “very sassy.” She tells me that Carla is her miracle baby — she was on a ventilator for the first 2-1/2 weeks of her life.

Coming close to losing her has created an extra sense of protectiveness. That makes it especially tough on Cathy when she struggles to provide for Carla and Saul.

“I do run out of food, and it’s sad, sometimes it breaks my heart,” Cathy says.

“There are countless times that I’ve broke down crying because I didn’t have nothing for the kids, or nothing for myself,” she says.

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What makes it even more frustrating for Cathy is that she has a full-time job at a canning factory. But it’s not enough.

“I get paid every Thursday, but by the time that I pay my bills, I have maybe enough money to put in my gas tank so I can make it back and forth to work…” Cathy explains.

Cathy wants to go to school to become a pharmaceutical technician so she can earn a better income, but wonders how she can take classes and still work to provide for her family. The day to day struggle is very real.

“Running out of food is — it makes me just feel like a bad mom sometimes and I don’t like that feeling…” Cathy says. “I like to make sure my kids are well taken care of.”

You can help defeat hunger by providing food and essentials for a family in need

Your support can help a mom like Cathy put food on the table for her two children.

Your gift today will provide a box of food and a box of essentials to meet urgent needs for a struggling family. It’s just $38 for both boxes! Please give today, if you can. Good food will put smiles on the faces of children like Carla and Saul!

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Hunger in America: The summertime struggle

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Tricia loves her children. She says 10-year-old Eleanor is “very smart, she loves school, everybody likes her.” (Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those we serve.)

As a mom, she wants her kids to have everything they need. But lately, that’s been a challenge. Tricia suffers from chronic kidney disease. In the past 5 years, she’s had 14 surgeries. When they can’t afford her pain medication, she goes without.

Her husband has been trying to find work for several months. Thankfully, he just got a job, but it’s going to take this family some time to get back on their feet. And that means a tight budget. Especially during the summer months.

“Our cabinets have been empty several times,”

Tricia says.

“And some days mom and dad don’t eat because we make sure they eat.”

Imagine how hard it is for this family and so many others to just put food on the table for their children. And providing three meals a day during the summer makes it even more difficult.

“Sometimes we’ve had to sell personal objects to feed them during the summertime,” Tricia explains. “We even sold a car once to make it through the summer.”

Now that we’re in August, families are thinking about school again.

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“It’s very difficult when school starts!” Tricia exclaims. “Not only food, but school supplies, school clothes — and my children are growing like crazy. It’s very expensive.”

“Some days it’s just, it’s heartbreaking,” Tricia shares. “And I think that’s the worst thing, the worst feeling a mother can feel is not being able to feed their child.”

You can provide food and essentials for a family in need

Your support can help fill the gap. You can fill the empty cabinets for a mom like Tricia so she can put food on the table for Eleanor and her three other children.

Your gift today will provide a box of food and a box of essentials to meet urgent needs for a struggling family. It’s just $38 for both boxes! Please give today, if you can. Good food will put smiles on the faces of children like Eleanor!

eleanor-smiling

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If Tricia’s story has moved you, please share it with others. Introduce them to this struggling mom and how they can help hungry children across America like Eleanor.

Hunger in America: One Mom’s Struggle

When you’re a mom who struggles to provide for your children, every day is tough. Mother’s Day is no different.

Catherine and her husband have 3 kids to provide for, but with only a part-time job between them they depend on their local food pantry to put meals on the table (names have been changed to protect the privacy of those we serve).

At certain times of the year, that’s not enough. Catherine says:

“It’s horrible to say we look forward to the kids going back to school so we don’t have to worry about getting them breakfast and lunch.”

But that’s reality for this family of 5.

During June, July and August food is really tight. To make sure the kids have something to eat, Catherine explains that she and her husband will skip meals.

“…that’s how we do it in the summertime; we will go without food for a couple of days.”

You can step in for a family like Catherine’s to help them through a difficult time.

You can provide food and essentials for a hurting family

You can help a mom like Catherine feed her children. Your gift today will provide a box of food and a box of essentials to meet urgent needs for children like hers. It’s just $38 for both boxes! Please give today, if you can. You’ll fill the hungry tummies of kids like Latrice and her brothers, so they can have the energy to play outside this summer and not miss out on the joys of childhood.

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If Catherine’s story has moved you, please share it with others. Introduce them to this struggling mom and how they can help hungry children across America.

Child Hunger in America: Ashley & Samantha’s story

Jacob loves his daughters — 6-year-old twins Ashley and Samantha (names have been changed to protect the privacy of those we serve). That’s why it hurts so much when he doesn’t have enough food for them. Just thinking about his two precious girls going hungry, brings tears to his eyes.

And when I ask the twins about going hungry, their silliness turns serious and their easy smiles fade.

“When I run out of food, my tummy gets so achy,” Ashley says.

“It feels pretty bad,” Samantha adds. “We don’t have no food to eat.”

Jacob and his wife, Debbie, try hard to provide for their family. But it’s a constant struggle. They are growing girls and Jacob says, “They eat a lot.”

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It’s especially difficult during the summer months. Millions of kids across America depend on free or reduced price meals, but when school ends, so do those critical meals.

“In the summertime, when they don’t have that free breakfast and lunch, it’s a little expensive ‘cause you have to buy breakfast and lunch food,” Jacob explains.

“We don’t have no food to eat.”

— Samantha, age 6

For Jacob, his twins mean twice the blessing. But right now, when times are tight, twins also mean twice the hunger.

You can help families through tough times

You can help a dad like Jacob feed his children. Your gift today will provide a box of food and a box of essentials to help children like Ashley and Samantha. It’s just $38 for both boxes! Please give today, if you can. You’ll offer critical help and hope to a struggling family in their time of need. And you’ll fill the hungry tummies of kids like Ashley and Samantha so they can keep coloring, and experience all of the other joys of childhood.

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If Ashley and Samantha’s story stirred something in you, please share it with others. Introduce them to the twins and how they can help hungry children across America.

Child Hunger in America: Katie’s Story

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Katie (names have been changed to protect the privacy of those we serve) can be sweet and silly, as you can see in the video above. She wasn’t shy in front of the camera. She enthusiastically told us how much she loves to play with dolls. And that she likes to read. But she says, “I can only read a little…the words are too long.”

When I ask her about food, her smile fades and her eyebrows furrow.

“Sometimes we go to the food giveaway…because we run out of food and we need food,” Katie explains.

She’s only 8, but Katie knows her family struggles to get enough to eat. She has 2 older brothers and a baby sister.

It’s heartbreaking for her mom, Tiffany, but hunger is often their reality. This reality leads to tough choices.

“A lot of times I have put my bills aside…‘cause my kids come first,” Tiffany says. “For my kids to have food, I won’t pay this bill this month — just for them to eat.”

“…I won’t pay this bill this month — just for them to eat.”

— Tiffany, Katie’s mom

When I asked this overwhelmed mom what the hardest thing she’s had to do to feed her kids, she told me:

“We had to beg…with the kids, when it’s got so bad, we’ve had to beg.”

Meet urgent needs for a hurting family

You can help a mom like Tiffany feed her children. Your gift today can provide a box of food and a box of essentials to help a child like Katie. It’s just $38 for both boxes! Please give today, if you can. You’ll offer a family help and hope — and put a smile on the face of a child like Katie.

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If Katie’s story stirred something in you, please share it with others. Introduce them to Katie and how they can help hungry children across America.

Child Hunger in America: Molly’s story

Sometimes Molly plays in her closet. I think she chooses this small space because it makes her feel safe, protected from the outside world and all of the problems her family faces each day.

Molly is only 8, but she knows about food stamps and the local food pantry.

“Me and my mom go to the food pantry because we run out of food because they took $200 off my mom’s food stamps,” Molly explains.

This family struggles to get enough to eat. Molly’s mom has a job, but it doesn’t pay a lot. Her dad had to stop working because he suffers from a serious illness.

Unfortunately, that means that Molly also knows about hunger and the pain it causes.

“When we run out of food, it makes my heart very sad and it makes me cry,” Molly told me. “And then my brother and mama and daddy starts crying.”

Molly even told me how hunger hurts physically:

“What it feels like to be hungry is that you feel like you’re getting sick because you don’t have any food that you can eat… And you feel like you’re going to throw up.”

“… and it just isn’t enough.”

— Amber, Molly’s mom

With tears streaming down her cheeks, Molly’s mom, Amber, says, “…it really tugs at your heart, that you’re doing everything you can do to provide for them, and it just isn’t enough.”

Amber works hard, but her job doesn’t pay enough to provide for this family of four. Her husband, Jonathan, wants to work, but he’s suffering from a debilitating disease. Molly says:

“…it makes it very hard for him to do stuff like paint because he spills paint… Parkinson’s disease is where your hand shakes a lot.” She adds, “…it makes me very sad and it makes him sad.”

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Give a family a hand up and hope

Molly and her brother, Elijah, need nutritious meals. Amber and Jonathan need help from caring friends like you to feed their children during this tough time.

Thankfully, Amber received food and other essentials from their local food pantry — these much-needed items were provided by Feed the Children, thanks to our compassionate supporters.

Molly says, “People should help other people because sometimes people run out of food and they don’t have any money to get any food.”

Knowing what it’s like to be hungry has given Molly a heart for helping others.

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“If I have food, I would help anybody that doesn’t have food.” — Molly

Your gift today can provide a box of food and a box of essentials for a family just like Molly’s. It’s just $38 for both boxes! Please give today, if you can. You’ll offer a family help and hope — and put a smile on the face of a child like Molly.

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#Expanding the Table– U.S. Faith-Based Community Uniting to Defeat Summer Hunger

I live in Oklahoma, the state that ranks 51st on the list of kids that are on free and reduced lunch during the year that don’t eat during the summer.

This fact is unacceptable.

How could Feed the Children, one of the nation’s largest hunger organizations be headquartered in Oklahoma and not address the hunger needs in our own backyard?

I knew that during my tenure at Feed the Children, change would need to happen.

So, beginning with a conversation and challenge from Audrey Rowe, Administrator of USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) in 2013, Feed the Children made a plan.

We knew our lack of experience would limit us if we didn’t have support of partners. We’d need guides to contribute their wisdom to our efforts. And last year, USDA’s FNS along with No Kid Hungry gave us lots of great advice. With their encouragement, we began.

Last summer in Oklahoma City, Feed the Children rolled out our pilot Summer Food and Education Program in partnership with FNS, the Oklahoma Department of Education, PepsiCo Food for Good, local schools and churches to form the first coalition on childhood hunger in Oklahoma.

For 9 weeks, we served over 8,654 meals on site through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and provided an additional 186,000 take-home meals to children and their families.

IMG_1715We learned that organizing community leaders around summer meal programs actually is not as daunting as we first thought. Church and other faith based groups with established programs for kids in the summer serve as built in partners and host sites.

And this is the good news I want to share: in one summer, Feed the Children’s efforts helped to increase the number of kids fed in the state of Oklahoma by 30%.

We still rank 51st but we know, in time, this fact about Oklahoma will change.

In light of our experiences, on Tuesday, February 3, FNS invited us to share our story at The White House.

Feed the Children, in partnership with the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and the USDA FNS, convened a forum called “Summer Meals 2015: Expanding the Table.”

I sat among 40 leading national and local faith-based and non-profit organizations–all showing our support for the 2015 Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).

As the session began, we heard from Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack who shared of his passion for no child going to bed hungry in the US. He reminded us that hungry kids in the US are hungry of no fault of their own. We all need to ban together to feed kids when school is out of session.

Next, I moderated a panel with community partners Dr. Kathy Krey, Director of Research for the Texas Hunger Initiative at Baylor University, and Dr. Judy Goforth Parker, Secretary of Health for the Chickasaw Nation, sharing stories of lessons learned from summer meals. For example, Dr. Krey spoke of the value of “everybody doing something.”

“Even if all you can do is assist at summer meal sites by opening up milk cartons for kids–do it,” she said. “We must all do our part.”

The forum resulted in the large community of leading nonprofit and faith-based organizations pledging their individual and organizational support and commitment to address summer hunger, the results of which will greatly impact children throughout America.

IMG_9146It was an imperative that I sign the pledge and become a summer meal champion.

Following the meeting, Feed the Children organized a Twitter Town Hall, using #ExpandingTheTable as the hashtag, to disseminate the message of support with those organizations at the forum and encourage others to join in the call to action. The conversation among leading advocates for hunger in the US included: FNS, No Kid Hungry, the Salvation Army, and Church World Service, and was incredibly informative.

The forum marks the first time the national faith-based community has collectively partnered with FNS in support of SFSP, which is typically organized on a grassroots level to provide free meals and snacks to low-income children during the summer months.

It was a good day at Feed the Children as we expanded our table to welcome even more partners.

I’m looking forward to what the future holds for Feed the Children as we feed even more children this summer in Oklahoma and beyond.

Feed the Children CEO Cooks Thanksgiving Dinner at Kenyan Orphanage

Yesterday, in Nairobi, Kenya the kids of the Dagoretti Children Center gathered for their first ever American Thanksgiving dinner.

It was an especially celebratory occasion because Kevin Hagan, President and CEO of Feed the Children helped to cook the meal along with his wife Elizabeth.

Kevin and Elizabeth spent the days leading up to the big dinner carefully planning the meal with the kitchen staff of the Center. Then, yesterday morning they worked tirelessly with the kitchen team to prepare the feast, side by side. Wearing special Feed the Children aprons and hats; they cooked and cooked and cooked.

When asked, Kevin said he wanted spend the holidays in Kenya because, “The kids at the Center are so very important to me. They’re the heart of our mission. I need them to know that their Feed the Children family loves them.”

Over 50 children and staff gathered around adjoined tables for this great feast.

IMG_3812The menu consisted of the traditional fare –turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and stuffing along with a few other side dishes more familiar to the Kenyan children likecooked carrots, garden peas and leeks. The children liked the sweet potatoes and turkey the best.

For dessert, the children enjoyed cupcakes with ice cream, a rare treat, while the adults savored on apple crumble and peach cobbler.

Before dinner began, Elizabeth offered a thanksgiving prayer and many of the children shared what they were thankful for –“Life!” “Feed the Children!,” and “Our visitors to Kenya!”

IMG_2418Kevin carved the turkey and explained the history of American Thanksgiving and why it is important to give thanks.

After dinner, the staff choir shared several songs with the group, which included “Count Your Many Blessings” and some traditional Swahili songs about giving thanks as well.

Several of the older children performed a skit about thankfulness, inviting the audience to join in.

IMG_8366Seintje Veldhuis, Regional Director of African programs, who also helped to organize the event said, “This was a very happy day for the children and the staff. We gave thanks to all be together.”

The Thanksgiving festivities concluded with a song in Swahili about how “Goodness had come to Dagoretti” on this very special day. The staff, children and choir danced their way out of the Dining hall. Each leaving the dinner with a smile on their face!

IMG_0223If you would like to know more about how to support programs like this one in Kenya, check out our gift catalog.

New Feeding Center Opens in Honduras Thanks to the Band Sister Hazel and Their Fans

We have long been partners with the band Sister Hazel. They make a unique kind of music that blends country and rock’n’roll harmonies with Southern pop. They’ve dubbed their fans “Hazelnuts” and for several years now, the guys in the band and their fans have sponsored children in Honduras.

Children Living In a Dump

Three years ago, Sister Hazel visited the community where their sponsored children live. Los Laureles is situated at the base of a huge dump which young and old alike scour for plastic and metal items to sell to recycling. Most of the homes are built out of garbage: nylon, cardboard, tin sheets and any other material they can find. Very few houses are built with cement blocks. Some of the houses are built high up on a plateau of the community, and because of the uneven and steep terrain, are very difficult to get to. None of these homes have indoor plumbing.

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Before Feed the Children arrived here, food supplies were very irregular. A church would provide 2 meals a week, and the government distributed some basic staples like rice, corn, and beans, but done in very basic conditions. The kids were malnourished, anemic, and riddled with parasites.

We asked a mom about what those days were like. Gennis is the mother of 5, including a first-grader named Kimberly. Gennis explained, “My children many times attended classes with only one cup of coffee in their stomach because I didn’t have anything else to give.”

Feed the Children’s Work with Los Laureles

Before Sister Hazel adopted the community in 2012, Feed the Children had worked for several years with help from generous partners, including TOMSVitamin Angels, and others, to provide nourishing food, medical care, vitamins, backpacks and school supplies, clothes and shoes, and improvements to the school facilities.

When Sister Hazel visited, they connected with the people of Los Laureles in such a profound way that the guys returned to the USA fired up about doing something BIG to help the community become independent.

Two years ago, Sister Hazel challenged the Hazelnuts to do two things: sponsor every one of the 221 children in Los Laureles, a goal they reached in December 2013, and raise the $75,000 needed to build a real feedingcenter for the community. This new facility will be a sturdy and permanent building with a steady supply of safe drinking water, a real kitchen, and soap and water for basic hygiene.

The Hazelnuts came through in a BIG way. Within a year, they’d raised the money!

In December 2013, our president and CEO Kevin Hagan, along with his wife Elizabeth, visited Los Laureles for the groundbreaking of the new feeding center.

Today, we are thrilled to announce that the new center is open! Sister Hazel returned to the community to witness the transformation there and to celebrate the feeding center’s grand opening.

Grand Opening Festivities

ribbon cutting at the feeding center

sister hazel tshirt frontthanks sister hazel and donors

 

 

karen sees a camera

moms in the new kitchen

water purifier in feeding center

kids in the new feeding center

If you’re familiar with Sister Hazel, or if you want to get to know their music, they’re releasing a special anniversary collection to celebrate 20 years of award-winning music. The album, 20 STAGES, includes live recordings, videos culled from 20 of the band’s favorite venues, and 3 brand new, never released tracks. 20 Stages is available now on iTunes & Amazon, in select Best Buy stores as well as Sister Hazel’s official online merch store