Wasted Food and Hungry Kids: How One School is Making a Difference

child at school cafeteria, food insecurity problem in America

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Every day 1 in 6 children in the United States goes hungry. Why is it that thousands of meals are also discarded as garbage, every day, in our public school systems?

Often times, these children rely upon a free breakfast and lunch programs offered by school districts just to have the opportunity to eat anything during the week. For every meal a child goes without an equivalent meal is thrown out as food waste by the same schools that these kids attend. That’s why Elkhart School District in Indiana decided to change its approach to solving both these issues for their students at Woodland Elementary. School administrators found a way to end the cycle and began offering prepackaged meals with the unused food from their cafeteria.

This pilot program is making a huge impact on the lives of students and families benefitting from the meals while simultaneously ending the food waste cycle that is so prevalent in this community. It’s an idea that could be an incredible answer to a growing problem


Photo by: US Department of Agriculture


The food crisis affecting American children is a pressing issue that highlights the intersection of poverty, food insecurity, and health outcomes within the United States. Despite being one of the world's wealthiest countries, a significant portion of American children face hunger and food insecurity on a daily basis. This crisis has profound implications for their health, development, and overall well-being.

The Scope of the Crisis
Food insecurity refers to the lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. It affects millions of American families. According to Feeding America, in early 2023, more than 12 million children in the United States live in "food insecure" homes. This situation means that these households are unable to provide enough nutritious food for every member due to a lack of resources.

Causes of the Crisis
The root causes of the food crisis among American children involves economic inequality, unemployment, underemployment, and inadequate social safety nets. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated these issues, leading to increased unemployment rates and disrupted food supply chains. The lack of affordable housing and high healthcare costs contribute to the financial strain on low-income families, forcing them to make difficult choices between paying for food and other essential needs.

Impact on Children
Nutrition is critical for early development, and lack of access to nutritious food can lead to physical and cognitive developmental delays. Children facing hunger are more likely to experience health issues, including anemia, asthma, and mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression. Food insecurity will affect academic performance, as hungry children struggle with concentration, memory, and school participation.

Addressing the Crisis
Efforts to address the food crisis among American children involve a combination of government intervention, non-profit organizations, and community initiatives. Programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), National School Lunch Program, and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) play critical roles in providing access to nutritious food for low-income families. Non-profits like Feeding America and local food banks also play a vital role in distributing food to those in need. Addressing the root causes of food insecurity requires comprehensive policy solutions aimed at reducing poverty, increasing access to affordable housing, healthcare, and ensuring living wages for all workers.

The Way Forward
The food crisis affecting American children is a complex issue that requires a multifaceted approach. While immediate relief is necessary to address hunger, long-term solutions must focus on eradicating the underlying causes of food insecurity. This includes advocating for policy changes to strengthen the social safety net, investing in community-based solutions to improve local food systems, and ensuring economic policies are inclusive and supportive of the most vulnerable populations. Only through unity can we hope to end the food crisis and build a future where all children have access to the nutritious food necessary to thrive.


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