ABC News’ Alyssa Newcomb and Colleen Curry report:
For the McKimmons family, the age-old question of “What’s for dinner?” has moved from what to make to whether they even have the money to put food on the table. Like many American families hit by the recession, money is tight and parents Dawn and Michael are taking whatever jobs they can find. She works in a hotel and he delivers pizzas.
“I hear my kids ask me, “Mommy, what’s for dinner?’ I sit there and just kind of pace around back and forth thinking to myself, ‘Oh, my gosh, what is for dinner?’” Dawn McKimmons said.
The Arkansas family isn’t alone.
According to the USDA, there are 17 million “food insecure” children in the United States.
“They may not be going hungry to bed that particular night but that means in the past year, their family has been very anxious and worried about where their food is going to come from,” said Mariana Chilton, an associate professor of public health at Drexel University in Philadelphia who spearheads initiatives to help feed children in the area. “There are many families that have had to change the quality of their nutrition and their overall nutritional intake,” she said.
Simply put, one in four children don’t have enough food.
It’s a staggering statistic that the creators of Sesame Street are tackling head-on with a special airing tonight called “Growing Hope Against Hunger.”
“It’s an invisible crisis, and that’s why we really thought that bringing a primetime special that addresses what parents and children are going through can bring hope and resources, and also for the general public, let them know about this invisible crisis and how they can help,” said Jeanette Betancourt, the senior vice president for outreach and educational processes at Sesame Workshop.
Lily, a 7-year-old girl muppet, comes from a family that struggles to have enough food. In the one-hour special, Lily talks to other characters about growing up in a home where there was not always enough food, and then helps Elmo and friends plan a food drive for the food bank that helped feed her family.
“You know it helps when we all come together,” Lily told ABC News’ David Muir when they spoke in Central Park.
Lily has a habit of looking down at the ground when nervously talking about her experiences, mimicking how many children hesitate when talking about heartfelt subjects, Betancourt said.
But this muppet has a message she wants the one in four children who are living in food insecure homes to know:
“You’re just not alone,” she said.