Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

'Elmo Didn't Know People Don't Have Food': Sesame Street Tackles Child Hunger

Sesame Street is never afraid to confront the hard stuff. I vividly remember in 1983 watching the cast of Sesame Street explain to Big Bird that Mr. Hooper had died after the actor who played Mr. Hooper, Will Lee, died of a heart attack. "Big Bird, Mr. Hooper's not coming back," they explained.

National Public Radio reports that this Sunday, Sesame Street is taking on child hunger in America in a primetime special called "Growing Hope Against Hunger." Watch the video preview above.

The special features a new Muppet named Lily, who explains to Elmo what being hungry is like. "When you don't even know whether you're going to have a next meal or not ... that can be pretty hard," Lily says.

Then, a 7-year-old girl named Josie shares her real-life story of how her dad doesn't always have enough money to buy her lunch at school.  "What I would do is just drink some water from the fountain until my stomach's full of water," she says. Wow.

Full confession: I was expecting to see a preview that would point to charity as the only solution to hunger. The scenes from Sesame Street center around a food pantry outside Mr. Hooper's store.

So it was heartening to hear promotion of the school lunch and breakfast programs in addition to charitable efforts. Lily explains that school meals really help her out. "I get breakfast and lunch for free in my school. That's two whole meals a day." That's not only important in terms of building public awareness about the program during a time when a focus on the deficit means that all federal programs are at risk of cuts, but it also helps decrease the stigma for kids who participate in the program, and builds a helpful awareness for kids who are not participating in the program.

Celebrity co-hosts Brad Paisley and Kimberly Williams-Paisley promote school meals as well. This almost makes me want to start listening to country music. Almost.

Last year, Bread for the World and allied organizations fought for and won $4.5 billion in new investments in child nutrition programs that was signed into law by President Obama in December. This is already helping kids across America get better access to meals at school and during the summer.

As a father of a 2-year-old, I often ask myself how I'm going to explain the "hard stuff" to my son. I'm sure Sesame Street will be involved.

Growing Hope Against Hunger airs on October 9 at 7 p.m. on PBS. (Check local listings)

Matt Newell-Ching is western regional organizer for Bread for the World.


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Nice post, Matt! I too, was happy to hear the school meals programs getting plugged in this clip!


As someone who received free lunch in high school, I definitely appreciate these programs and those who make efforts to lessen the stigma that can surround them.

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