• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Muppet Lily: One of the Few Hungry Children in America

    There’s a new kid on the block. Muppet Lily joined Elmo and Big Bird on the cast of Sesame Street last month. Despite Lily’s bright pink face looking cheery and healthy in her debut episode, the audience found out that Lily deals with hunger and food insecurity.

    Sesame Street’s newest primetime special, “Growing Hope Against Hunger,” introduced Lily in order to raise awareness of widespread hunger throughout the United States. Viewers were informed that over 50 million Americans don’t have the food they need much of the time. Seventeen million of those are children, they said—which means one in four children in America—don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

    “Elmo didn’t know there were so many people who don’t have all the food they need,” America’s favorite red Muppet said with surprise.

    There are children like Lily in America who suffer because of their families’ food insecurities. But there are not as many hungry children as these stats claim. Addressing the needs of those who are facing true deprivation depends on accurately diagnosing the problem.

    America’s poor may suffer from temporary food shortages, but according to a September report by Heritage’s Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield, most poor households don’t experience food insecurity.

    During the recession in 2009, 38 percent of poor households claimed that they didn’t always have the food they preferred, but government data reveal that 83.4 percent always had enough to food to eat. Only 4 percent of poor children—or less than 1 million—experienced hunger at some point in the year due to a lack of food resources.

    Rector and Sheffield conclude that the problem of hunger in America is frequently overstated, which makes it difficult to enact effective anti-poverty policies:

    The poor man who has lost his home or suffers intermittent hunger will find no consolation in the fact that his condition occurs infrequently in American society. His hardships are real and must be an important concern for policymakers. Nonetheless, anti-poverty policy needs to be based on accurate information. Gross exaggeration of the extent and severity of hardships in America will not benefit society, the taxpayers, or the poor.

    While the Sesame Street episode may not have given a clear picture about the problem of hunger in America, it did well to make its preschool audience aware of what children their age might be experiencing. The special also highlighted the impact of charitable organizations. Food pantries, soup kitchens, and community gardens are all sources for those families who do experience shortages in food.

    According to Robert L. Fischer, co-director of the Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development at Case Western Reserve University, families often turn to faith-based charities in times of need:

    “As families cycle in and out of poverty,” he said, “faith-based service programs tend to catch people who fall through the cracks of other safety nets.”

    Churches, ministries, and other community-based institutions are well-equipped to serve people in need. Heritage’s Ryan Messmore writes that faith-based groups are especially important:

    While some look immediately to the government to provide solutions, local church congregations have enormous potential to meet people’s needs and advance social welfare.…

    Government should not claim and should not be granted a monopoly over responsibility for the public good.

    While the problem of hunger in America is often overstated, there are still families that suffer from food shortages. Policymakers need better information to target scarce resources effectively while recognizing the significant role that community groups and churches play in helping those truly in need.

    Posted in Featured [slideshow_deploy]

    5 Responses to Muppet Lily: One of the Few Hungry Children in America

    1. idaho redneck says:

      Unfortunately our society has been transformed from the majority being hardworking indviduals looking for improvement and prosperity to an increasingly large of number content to sit on their rear ends with their hands out. What we have done or what we have allowed to be done is truly the crime of the millennia.
      The last time this happened, Roman citizens sitting in the Coliseum had bread thrown to them paid for by politicians running for office.

    2. James says:

      IF there are children going hungry in America today with all the welfare programs, food stamps, community support groups, churches, etc, there can only be one answer. THE PARENT OR PARENTS.

    3. Brad - Detroit says:

      Charity begins at home (i.e. – it should be local – this is not a function of the federal government, nor ever should be.)

    4. medwardkelly says:

      "Only 4 percent of poor children—or less than 1 million—experienced hunger at some point in the year due to a lack of food resources."

      So that makes it ok? Don't worry, we only had 1 million children go without the food they need on a regular basis in our country, the richest on the planet, while billionaires got richer and richer and produced nothing but economic uncertainty. Give me a break.

      • CommonSense says:

        The report did not say 4% of children go without" on a regular basis", it said at some point in the past year.

        You have very clearly articulated the exaggerative principle the article as protesting against. Why do you feel it is necessary to enlarge the problem and overstate the issue?

        And why do you feel the need to display your envy for the very rich? Do you honestly state billionaires are swooping down and stealing the bread from children's mouths, thereby making them hungry?

        In point of fact, the greatest cause of childhood hunger is not billionaires, but having children outside of wedlock. Period. Check any statistic set you please, this is irrefutable.

        Those hated billionaires of yours (and I presume millionaires and perhaps quarter-of-a-millionaires, not knowing where your envy ceases) are the folks who create companies that create jobs that employ the parents of children.

        When there are 2 parents, even in dismal economic times, children are likely to be fed, clothed and content.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.