Hunger in the Land of Plenty

By Judy Berman

The boy fought back tears when we talked. He worried about where his next meal would be coming from during the long holiday weekend.

He’d had no steady address for several weeks after his parents split up.

Our school offers free breakfasts. He, like many other children, was no doubt enrolled in the free or reduced-price lunch program.

But the uncertainty that weighs on children like him is the nagging thought about the weekends and the long holidays. Where will the food come from?

Hunger in the Land of Plenty? Unthinkable.

Last weekend, that young man was on my mind when I agreed to join my husband, Dave, and his co-worker, Stacey Barchenger, in the “World’s Largest Food Packing Event” in Melbourne, Florida.

Children's Hunger Project - Copy

There were nearly 3,000 volunteers who helped pack meals for elementary school children to take home over the weekend. It’s part of The Children’s Hunger Project.

It was an opportunity to provide the start of a brand-new day for some child.

Bob Barnes, executive director and co-founder of the nonprofit organization, said the program serves more than a 1,000 children a week in 27 schools in Brevard County.

A few years ago, he said he was stunned to learn from a news report that claimed “17 percent of children nationwide are on the free or reduced-price lunch program.”

Barnes told volunteers there that he’s not going to argue about why this is happening. He just wants to do what he can to end child hunger.

I’ve heard the criticisms: parents or guardians are to blame for not managing money better, or for not having the right priorities for their spending. Or some blame charities for spending money on advertising or huge salaries for their top officials, instead of focusing donations on those it’s intended for.

But it’s the children who are the victims in this.

“The Children’s Hunger Project is driven by the belief that knowledge is power, and only by being attentive and driven in the classroom can children absorb knowledge properly.

“A hungry child is less likely to do either one,” according to its website,

Check your area to see what is being done to ease child hunger and malnutrition.

Children's Hunger Project - Stacey Barchenger, Dave Berman and me - 2-8-14

We found that the time we spent helping pack boxes of food was well-spent. I just wish that there wasn’t a need for an organization like this.

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Music Video – “Brand New Day” by Joshua Radin – 

Photos from the Children’s Hunger Project in Melbourne, Florida on 2-8-14:

  • volunteers packing food trays for needy children – taken by Stacey Barchenger
  • volunteers: Stacey Barchenger, Dave Berman and Judy Berman

  1. Great work done for your community’s hungry children, Judy. The look on the faces of you three tells the story of the power of pitching in. Way to go.

    1. I work in a school that has a high percentage of students who are on free and reduced-lunches. Kate, you’re right, what some of them go thru at such a young age is just heart wrenching.

  2. We also have a program here that creates backpacks with books and supplies for children at the beginning of the school year. But my favorite is the group who works with women prisoners down in Canyon City, and gives them birthday cards to write messages for their children. Then the birthday cards are tucked inside wrapped birthday presents and delivered to the children (often in foster care). It’s the children who pay for the adults’ mistakes.
    You look like you’re having a wonderful time working at the Children’s Hunger Project, Judy!

    1. Marilyn, both projects sound excellent. I agree. Children often pay for the adults’ mistakes.
      This photo of me, my hubby, and a friend might have been taken right after the DJ (who volunteered his time and talent) played “YMCA.” One of my fave tunes. 😉

  3. God bless you and all the volunteers who opened their hearts to the many hungry kids. It is horrible to see and discover that in the land of plenty so many kids are deprived of basic needs and even more sad is that so many that are more materially blessed refuse to see and be involved. Hope one day soon, such a problem will cease and all children will once more smile happily.

    1. Thank you, Island Traveler. Like you, I hope that no child – or adult – anywhere is deprived of food. It was staggering to see the pallets of food trays and know those packages were going toward children in our area who might go hungry over the weekend.

  4. It’s too bad there’s a need for a program like this, Judy, but how fortunate that there are also people like you to step up and do something about it. I’m going to see what’s happening where I live. Thank you for posting this.

    1. Charles, if you look at the Children’s Hunger Project, I think they have links to other organizations that do similar things. There’s a Backpack project that helps school kids, too. Thanks for looking into it. 😉

  5. Yes!

    Why should we take a second to argue about “why is this happening” when what we need to do is meet the immediate needs of hungry children. I’m your fan! (and your coworker–because I am convinced that we can’t just “like;” we have to ACT when we believe something ought to be done).

    1. I understand that some are frustrated on the “why’s.” But sometimes you just do the best you can to help as much as you can and pray that the best gets done.

      Thanks, Tracy, for the kudos. Really, it was only 1 1/2 hours out of a weekend. The co-founder wanted as many volunteers as he could so that more people would be aware of the problem. The REAL heavy lifting is done by their regular group of volunteers. 😉

  6. It’s strange that so many in countries like our own that there can still be so many in a form of poverty today. We have this problem in Britain too. I remember being taught at school that all although not everyone had enough money for what they needed, some were more wealthy than others, no child ever went hungry in the UK, but of course as I grew up I found that couldn’t have been further from the truth. It depended where you lived, and in fact I later found out that some kids in my own class didn’t eat much at home at all, free school meals was their only hope of any decent food. It was very shameful in the 70’s to admit that poverty. I get the feeling today, that although it still has shame attached to it, it seems to be talked about more openly. Do you feel that, or is that just the way it looks?

    That was a worthy cause you participated in! Is this something that runs all the time? I know we have schemes like this run in Britain, but often the only time you hear about them is at Christmas time, giving the impression that it is only done for Christmas. That kind of annoys me a little, and I think it angers the charities too, that the local TV company only wants to highlight it at Christmas! 😐

    1. Suzy, the particular event that I went to with my husband and a friend was to raise awareness about the issue of child hunger. They do have an ongoing program they run thru the area elementary schools. Some schools, like the middle school I teach at, have a number of students on free and reduced lunch.

      I don’t think it has the stigma it did when my Mom was growing up during the Depression. They just did without and didn’t talk about it. Some, today, won’t sign up for the free or reduced-lunch program because they are too proud to ask for help. If they need it, I think they should. No questions asked.

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