Children innocently pose questions about the world around them every day. Each parent hopes to shield them from the complexity and challenges that they will inevitably face as life matures away from innocence. Yet if your child’s classmates are receiving free or reduced-price lunches, how do you explain the inequality? The current economy presents a perfect opportunity to explain to the youth in your life that setbacks can happen to any family, but our community has the power to see everyone through the most uncertain of times.
“My best friend’s stomach was grumbling in class so I gave her my apple. Why didn’t her mom make a lunch for her?”
While it’s important to praise your child for helping a friend in need, it’s also a good time to discuss what we can all do long-term versus short-term to help others. Occasionally giving a friend some of your lunch does not address the root issue of chronic hunger. One possible solution is to print out our list of food resources and ask your school’s administration to post it for parents and children to see. Our Food Connection hotline listed on these materials offers helpful assistance in multiple languages to link the hungry with the programs available in their neighborhood. Another option is to start a food drive at your child’s school. Getting barrels, posters and other materials is quick and easy. Click here to get ideas or to sign up today! Showing your child that hunger is a larger issue in our community, but that we have the resources to address it, not only meets the short-term need of food but also plants the seeds for a lifetime of awareness and social change.
“Why do you make my lunch and other kids pick theirs up at school?”
When your child starts to notice the difference in what their classmates are eating in the cafeteria, it’s helpful to start the discussion with focusing on similarities rather than differences. It’s common for “hunger and homelessness” to be part of the same breath when discussing social inequalities, but the majority of the hungry in America are the working poor with an “invisible” need. Reminding your children that there are those in need all around us that don’t fit the stereotypes they see in movies or on TV helps create inclusiveness rather than division.
“Will we ever run out of food, too?”
It’s natural for children to worry that something they’ve witnessed happening to someone else could also happen to them. This is a good opportunity to explain how the financial crisis has created an increase in requests for services from people who never had to reach out before, but that your family is not in that situation. It’s helpful to promise that you will discuss the family’s finances openly with each other if anything changes so that if a transition takes place, your children are prepared for it. You can also reassure them that places like Second Harvest Food Bank exist so that no one needs to go hungry. We are the community’s safety net and even though we’ve had to cast that net wider than ever, there’s room for everyone who needs it.
Depending on your child’s age, stories can help explain challenging ideas better than just casual conversation. Here are some helpful selections to add to your home library based on grade level.
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