A World Where No Child Goes to Bed Hungry

Editor’s Note: The following article was originally posted on the IF:Gathering website. We are thankful for the partnership with IF:Gathering, which has been highlighting the work of Feed the Children on their blog for the last several months.

For too many families across our country, hunger is an ever-present reality. There’s not enough money to pay the bills. Food stamps help many people, but they often don’t bridge the gap to the next paycheck. People who never thought they’d have to ask for help find themselves appealing to family, friends, and churches for assistance to get by. And yet each morning, they get up and keep going—going to work, sometimes a double shift; caring for children, maybe with medical needs; finding the resourcefulness to make it through another day. Their persistence is amazing, but it shouldn’t happen in the richest nation in the world.

Consider Cassondra, single mother of two bright and spirited young children. Samuel is your typical rough-and-tumble three year old. And Carmen, the two year old, is Cassondra’s “miracle baby”: hospitalized at birth, on a ventilator for the first two-and-a-half weeks of her life. She’s healthy now—a little delayed in some of her milestones, but full of spirit. “They evolve into beautiful kids every single day,” Cassondra says with obvious pride. “And I love it. I love being a mom.”

6-15 TRIP2941 Jacobs-Lockett FULTON PA (23)

Cassondra has a steady job in a canning factory. She works the night shift, but calls it the “graveyard shift” with a laugh because she’s tired all the time. She was lucky recently to get three days of overtime. That will help with expenses, but still, the money runs out. Food stamp benefits last her about half the month. From time to time, she has to pawn her belongings to make ends meet.

When they go to Walmart, Sam asks for toys he sees in the checkout counter. What child doesn’t? But Cassondra has to tell him “no.” “There’s countless times that I’ve broken down crying because I didn’t have anything for the kids, or for myself. But I would rather them eat and me go without than me eat and them go without.”

No mother should have to make that choice.

Tosha’s story is both similar and different—hunger has common themes, but a million different faces. Tosha is the mother of four children ranging in age from 8 to 14. Like Cassondra, she bursts with love and pride when she talks about them. Like Cassondra, she worries when the money runs out, and pawns her belongings to make the dollars stretch.

“I just try to show my kids I’m strong, I can do it, we’ll figure it out,” Tosha says. “They don’t even know half the time what’s really going on, but it’s very hard. Our cabinets have been empty several times.”

For most of us reading this, an empty cabinet means life got busy and hectic—a quick trip to the grocery store and our shelves are stocked again without another thought. But for too many women like Cassondra and Tosha, empty cabinets are a sign of shame. Holidays can be excruciating. Two Christmases ago, Tosha remembers, the family wasn’t even able to afford a special meal—they ate just like any other day. The kids got a few presents, but they had to wait until January for them, when the family was on better financial footing to afford them. “A month later kind of takes the fun out of Christmas,” she said.

Tosha suffers from kidney issues, so she’s not able to work. Thankfully, her husband got a job—not a great one, but it’s something. And like Cassondra, Tosha is thankful for food stamps, but they rarely last the month.

These stories hurt our hearts. And we believe they hurt God’s heart as well.

That’s why we’re proud we’ve partnered with Feed the Children this year — an organization fighting every day to create a world where no child goes to bed hungry. Visit Feed the Children’s Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages and give them a like or a follow, so you can learn more about their work.

When Grandparents Become Caregivers

Editor’s Note: The following article was originally posted on the IF:Gathering website. We are thankful for the partnership with IF:Gathering, which will be highlighting the work of Feed the Children on their blog over the next several months.

Many folks have specific images in their minds of what it will be like when they become grandparents. Rocking babies on their knee. Thanksgiving and Christmas with the entire family around the table. Kids visiting in the summer for “grandparent camp.” Sometimes grandparents will admit, “It’s all of the fun of parenting without the stress. I get to give them back to their parents!”But sometimes, tough circumstances change that vision of what grandparenting is like.

Some grandparents end up becoming caregivers for their grandchildren. After raising their own children, they now find themselves going through it all over again. Ada is one of those grandparents. She and her husband watched with increasing alarm as their grown kids, with three children of their own, got into some trouble—trouble that negatively impacted the children. Eventually, the grandparents were awarded custody of the three little ones, bringing them into their Tennessee home.

Soon after, Ada’s husband died.

It’s been three years now, and Ada has sole custody of eight-year-old Benjamin, four-year-old Nathaniel, and three-year-old Raelyn. Ada still works part-time, and that income helps pay the bills and put food on the table. But it’s often not enough.

Ada does her best to cobble together resources for the children—help from the church, food from a food pantry—but it’s a constant source of stress. “It breaks your heart sometimes,” Ada says. “It worries you, being afraid they won’t have enough. I’d like to get to where I wouldn’t have to worry about that. Those little eyes, when they look at you… you want to give them what they want.”Ada also gets by with food stamps—$343 a month. It helps, but with three growing children, it’s not much. Sometimes that money lasts all month, sometimes not.

“It hurts,” she says. Rent takes a large chunk out of her monthly paycheck, along with other bills. She’s careful to make the life insurance payments; as guardian to these kids—and not getting any younger—she has to be thinking about their long-term future.This time of year is especially tough on Ada. With the kids out of school, she has to pay for child care just so she can work. And her grocery receipts go up too—the kids receive free breakfasts and lunches during the school year, but when there’s no school, there’s no breakfast or lunch.

More and more community organizations and congregations are becoming summer feeding sites, helping bridge the gap after the school year ends. Feed the Children has been on the forefront of this movement in Oklahoma and soon to be around the country. But Ada’s little ones don’t have access to such a site. Their family needs more organizations and churches to step up and do what they can during these critical summer months.

Last month we shared Crystal’s story and called all of us pray for compassionate hearts. This month we challenge you to “pray with your eyes open.” When we think of families, we often think immediately of a father, mother and children. But that’s not always the reality. Families like Ada’s are all around us. Let’s all be on the lookout for non-traditional families like Ada’s, and consider what their struggles might be, and how we might be moved to respond.