Hunger Is No Game; It’s Real and Teens Can Help End It

child in hunger

The Chicago Bureau is proud to run a series of articles and commentary by students at four of Chicago’s public high schools, part of a system often criticized. These articles, written by students taking part in The OpEd Project’s Youth Narrating Our World – YNOW – mentorship program funded by McCormick Foundation, show an honest, reflective and candid view of the system as experienced by youth at participating schools Gwendolyn Brooks, Lindblom Math & Science Academy, Walter Payton and Young Women’s Leadership Academy. YNOW is led by Michele Weldon and Deborah Douglas, faculty at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, as well as Chicago journalists.

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Author Jessica Pope - hunger
Author Jessica Pope

The movie, Hunger Games, had more than $400 million in sales at the box office, making it the highest grossing film for 2013. It’s a fictional thriller. So why can’t Hunger in America raise as much money? It’s real for people who do not have enough to eat.

According to Feeding America, 33.1 million adults and 15.9 million children in America live in poverty. This is more than a mere statistic. I know children who are afraid to ask another child if he or she can have some of food to eat because of the fear of getting teased about being hungry.

The stigma of hunger and poverty results in some children bullying another child because his or her parents can’t afford for the child to eat as much as necessary to stave off hunger. Imagine if you had to live under those conditions every day. You may not have to imagine too long; the person sitting next to you on the bus may be a person who doesn’t have a meal to eat tonight.

Yes, there are hundreds of food banks across the country, and The Greater Chicago Food Depository People serves 150,000 meals per day from its network of 650 pantries, shelters and other sites. The US Association of Food Banks lists 274 members.

But people may be ashamed to go to food banks because of the way society has shaped the notion that “fancy lifestyles are the best lifestyles.” The stigma of being needy extends to thrift shopping, even though a thrift store has just as many quality clothes as a WalMart. I know; I went thrift store shopping a few weeks ago.

We as a nation need to make people feel more comfortable about their needs and break down walls of pride. I am trying to do my part. I volunteer with Build On, and last weekend we volunteered at St. James Food Pantry in Chicago.  It was amazing.

There are many more food banks all over the nation where you can volunteer your time. Volunteers are needed every day just like people need food every day. As a teen, you don’t need to feel as if you can’t do anything to help stop hunger. Because you can. You can engage with  fundraisers for homeless shelters, food banks and more.

I have another idea. In order to fight hunger why not have big movie studios send every $1 of a movie ticket to organizations like Feeding America, Meals on Wheels, No Kid Hungry and more? If that plan was in place now, more than $4 million would have gone to end hunger from sales of tickets to “Hunger Games.”

It would be an amazing contribution to people in need of food. Who knows maybe one day you might need help.

In my own home there are times where there is a struggle for us to eat a meal, a healthy meal at that. I have friends who also face the same issue We are not alone; more than 50.1 million people also have these same issues in the United States.

It saddens me to find out that 40 percent of the food in America is thrown out when it could have been giving to someone in need of it. That 40 percent could have saved someone from starvation.

But that bad part is its not just America suffering. The world is suffering to the point where people are dying of starvation.

An estimated 1.5 million children die every year from starvation. Every 3.6 seconds someone dies of starvation.

Tell me are we as a world really doing as much as we can to help fight hunger. Yes, we already have billions of people helping to end hunger but we need more. We need to put aside our pride and live together and help together as one. It only takes a hand to change someone’s life.

“Hunger Games” is only a movie, but hunger is not a game. It is real and we as teens can help.

From Pew Research Center - hunger and poverty rate
From Pew Research Center

Jessica Pope, 16, is a sophomore at Lindblom Math and Science Academy,  a member of the poetry team/club and expresses herself in Louder than a Bomb. She participates in The OpEd Project’s Youth Narrating Our World.

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