Hunger at Home: Since Recession 20 Million More Americans on Food Stamps

VIDEO: Dr. Richard Besser reveals that hunger is not only a problem found overseas.
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The McKimmons girls in Arkansas pray before each dinner, grateful for every meal. Michelle Sutton near Atlanta sacrifices her own food for her boys. And 10-year-old Jahzaire Sutton in Philadelphia has a nearly empty refrigeratior.

In every corner of the country, a portrait of hidden hunger has now emerged. The recession has pushed 2.4 million more children into poverty. Seventeen million children are "food insecure," meaning their parents often don't know where the next meal will come from.

Simply put, one in six Americans don't have enough food.

Dawn and Michael McKimmons live near Fort Smith, Ark., and have moved into a trailer to save money. Dawn works at a hotel, while Michael delivers pizzas. They have taken whatever jobs they could find, but it is still not enough to feed the family.

They make do with help from their local food bank and try to shield their three little girls from the daily struggle.

"I hear my kids ask me, 'Mommy what's for dinner?' And I sit there at times, I sit there and kind of just pace back and forth thinking to myself, 'Oh my gosh, what is for dinner,'" said Dawn.

Hunger at Home: How to Help

Outside Atlanta, the Suttons slipped from the middle class when Bob Sutton's concrete company went under. Michelle Sutton said she used to be a typical soccer mom, but not anymore. She told ABC News that her 11-year-old son hugged her and said, "Wow, you feel skinny."

Dr. Mariana Chilton, founder of Witnesses to Hunger, says the recession has hit the middle class hard.

"People who have been middle class who are now struggling to put food on the table are feeling an enormous amount of stress," she said. "They are starting to experience the pain of poverty, of what it's like to be poor."

In Philadelphia, 10-year-old Jahzaire Sutton knows it's the end of the month, when the food stamps have long run out.

His mother is trying to finish her degree so she can find work.

When asked what is toughest for him, Sutton said, "When I eat, and my mom doesn't. She sacrifices."

Before the recession, 26 million Americans were on food stamps. Today, that number has grown to more than 46 million, or one in seven Americans.

Sutton says he wants to be a senator when he grows up and has even written to Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., to ask for help.

Without a car, Sutton and his mother are forced to walk to Rite Aid to buy food. Rite Aid is the closest store, but it is often too expensive and there is no supermarket nearby. Walmart is their best alternative.

St. Christopher's Hospital in Philadelphia is ground zero for hunger. The emergency room might see 250 children a day, and up to half are hungry.

"They don't have the growth that they should," said. Dr. Chris Haines, ER director at St. Christopher's Hospital. "What disturbs me is that your brain grows much in your childhood, and nutrition is what's important to your brain's growth."

Tom Lesher, who brought his grandson to the hospital, has been out of a job for 18 months.

"Things are going to get tough," he said. "I don't know what I'm going to do. I can't find a job."

Click Here for More Stories from ABC News' Series "Hunger at Home"

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