The Sobering Reason Why “Sesame Street” Is Taking on Hunger
by Matt Newell-Ching
Last October we featured a Breadblog post about a new effort by “Sesame Street” to provide resources and empathy for children and parents experiencing hunger. A recent interview in the New York Times “Motherlode” blog provides a sobering look at why the Muppets are taking on such a serious issue. Blogger KJ Dell’Antonia interviewed Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, Senior Vice President for Outreach and Educational Practices at Sesame Workshop:
When we realized that 9.6 million children under the age of 6 are impacted by food insecurity, [said Betancourt] we realized we needed to reach out to those children and their families.
We also wanted the children to see that they’re not alone …. Hunger can be a very hidden problem. And we wanted to help reduce the stigma of needing help.
The short answer to why they took this on? Because it’s increasingly relevant to Sesame Street’s audience, kids in the United States.
And let’s be clear—it’s relevant not only for kids who are experiencing hunger, but to their peers as well. “Sesame Street” has a unique way of inviting young minds to experience empathy, which—let me tell you, as the father of a toddler—is not an easy task. Growing Hope Against Hunger provides an important opportunity for parents to foster a “do unto others” moment with their kids. I know we’ll be watching it with our kids soon.
In her blog, Dell’Antonia makes another observation that is often overlooked:
The familiar Muppets can help a child through everything from big-kid beds to grieving. But when the average American throws away 33 pounds of food a month, Elmo and Big Bird shouldn’t need to help a child worried about being hungry for anything more than an extra cookie.
This underscores an important point: hunger in America is not a problem of food production. It’s a problem of food access.
The good news is that we know a lot about bridging access to food. And the best bridge to food for struggling families is through the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). Yet, at this moment, SNAP is under threat in Congress.
+ Learn more about how to urge decision-makers to stand up for struggling families by defending SNAP.
Matt Newell-Ching is the Bread for the World western regional organizer.
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