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Holiday Hardships: Facing Hunger During the Season of Joy

The joy of the holidays comes with a harsh reality this year: more children are experiencing hunger, according to a new report from the USDA

The numbers rose dramatically with 12.8% of U.S. households facing food insecurity in 2022, up from 10.2% from the year before. It’s the largest increase since 2008.  

Even more alarming, one in five – or 13 million – U.S. children do not know where their next meal will come from. That number is higher than in 2021 and 2020. With less resources after emergency SNAP benefits expired this year, families are desperate, especially as the holidays approach. 

Annie’s family, including her two kids, struggle with not having enough food.  

“The holiday time is very stressful,” said Annie. “It’s been like that for the last two years now. It starts in November when hardships happen to us. And it goes through Christmas.”  

While financial stress affects low-income families year-round, it is more intense during the holidays. During this season, money is key for celebrating – to buy decorations and afford gifts. If parents can’t afford food, they probably can’t buy gifts for their children.   

“Christmastime is just too expensive, and you want to please your kids. So, you try to do the best you can, but it’s very, very hard,” said Annika, mother of two girls. “I have to pay all the bills, and I just don’t have extra money to buy them what they want.”  

Plus, Thanksgiving and Christmas are food-centric holidays. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the average cost of a Thanksgiving feast for 10 people was $64.05 in 2022. That’s up $10.74 from 2021. 

While that cost may not sound outrageous, consider this: it’s only ONE MEAL. A parent can buy more meals for their hungry child if they spend the same amount of money on groceries for a week, rather than a single meal. 

Moms and dads are making hard choices like this every day in the U.S. They must choose to skip the elaborate holiday meal in favor of having enough food for multiple days. Katrina, a single mom, feels the pressure during this time of year.   

“When the holidays come around, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, for us… it’s like, am I going to be able to do it?” she said.  

It’s not just the food that creates difficulties for families who are struggling financially. The stress from buying gifts and decorations dampens the holiday cheer for many people: 54% of holiday shoppers expect to feel a burden financially this season. Imagine the stress and heartbreak for children and parents when they don’t have enough money to even put food on the table.  

Sadly, children go hungry year-round, but the unique struggles that happen around the holiday season are even more heartbreaking. That’s why Feed the Children delivers food, household essentials, plus books and toys to make the holidays a little brighter.  

“I can’t provide for my son as much as he wants, but I do see a future that, hopefully one day we will have our own place and we will have our own Christmas or a good Thanksgiving,” said Marco, a single father.  

A gift of food can bring hope to parents like Marco who need extra support during the holiday season and beyond. The crisis we’re dealing with right now – with 13 million children facing food insecurity – will not go away after the holidays. We need dedicated partners to work diligently to create a world where no child goes to bed hungry. Please consider becoming a monthly donor to make the biggest impact!

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