Unseen Teens: Expanding Our National Community Focus
6.8 million teens between the ages of 10 and 17 don’t have enough to eat. The epidemic of teen hunger often goes unaddressed, because teens typically don’t benefit from backpack programs or other child-centered hunger initiatives. Our National Community Focus of fighting hunger, and the fact that September is Hunger Action Month, offers an opportunity for these “unseen teens” to be recognized. We encourage you to take action against teen hunger in your community by:
- Fundraising for or starting anonymous in-school food pantries in high schools.
- Raising money to pay off lunch account deficits at schools in your community.
- Creating a “little free pantry” in your area where people can grab what they need at any time.
- Partnering with local schools and spreading awareness of the need for after-school and weekend food assistance for teens and their families.
- Assisting parents in signing up for SNAP (food stamp) benefits and teens in signing up for free or reduced cost meal programs at school.
- Organizing a group volunteer experience – 51% of food programs rely purely on volunteers.
- Engaging organizations in your community to partner with food banks and distribute food to families in need.
- Hosting a job fair to inform teens about job development programs like Job Corps, AmeriCorps or employment opportunities in your area – teens would prefer to have a job to help feed their family, but many cannot find youth employment.
- Reminding food banks to use RedBasket.org for free fundraising or starting a fundraising event for a local food bank of your choice using RedBasket.org.
Teens feel a stigma surrounding hunger and poverty, yet most also feel a responsibility to help feed their family. This struggle can drive teens into unsafe situations that jeopardize their future, such as theft, selling drugs or other risky behaviors. Unfortunately, teens engaging in these behaviors actively try to hide their hunger. It’s important that teens are met with help instead of judgment, and that we step up to meet the needs of hungry teens in our communities.
You can help these hidden teens in need. Remember to share your charitable activity on social media using the hashtags #FightingHunger and #WoodmenLifeGivesBack.