In 2013, 15.8 million U.S. children were at risk of hunger. For children, even brief periods of hunger carry consequences that may last a lifetime.
Many children suffer from nutritional deficiencies, sometimes referred to as “hidden hunger” since they can cause serious health problems in children who don’t “look hungry.” Nutrition affects mental health and academic achievement as well as physical health. But the damage caused by food insecurity is unnecessary and preventable. Federal nutrition programs help millions of children eat well; these programs must be maintained and strengthened to provide more eligible children with healthier food.
When Congress reauthorizes child nutrition programs in 2015, the emphasis must be on enabling programs to serve all eligible children well — from WIC for infants, to meals at daycare for preschoolers, to school lunch, breakfast, and summer food for elementary and secondary students. The United States simply cannot afford the consequences of allowing children to go without the nutritious food they need. Strong child nutrition programs must be a top national priority.