Sesame Street Debuts New Character for Tough Economic Times

Rosita, Elmo, and Lily learn how growing food in a community garden is a great way to get food and give back to neighbors in need as part of Sesame Street's primetime television special entitled Growing Hope Against Hunger.

A hungry muppet is joining the cast of Sesame Street for an upcoming special on hunger in America.

Lily, a 7-year-old girl muppet, comes from a family that struggles to have enough food. In the one-hour special, “Growing Hope Against Hunger,” 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.

She also visits a community garden with new pals Elmo and Rosita to see how food can be grown locally.

Joining Lily for the special will be country music star Brad Paisley and his wife, Kimberly Williams Paisley. The show will air Oct. 9 at 7 p.m.

The special aims to address the growing problem of hunger in America, where nearly 17 million families like Lily’s have limited access to food, according to Jeanette Betancourt, the senior vice president for outreach and educational processes at Sesame Workshop. Children age six and under make up 9.6 million of those who are hungry, she said.

“It’s an invisisble 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,” Betancourt said.

Lily’s creation took months of research, interviews with families and children, and script and character development before she was ready for her primetime debut, Betancourt explained. She is a vibrant pink color with a denim dress and headband, representing the “everyday girl,” Betancourt said.

“The things she talks about are hunger, which she has experienced, and also how she and her family reached out for help through food drives, food pantries, school lunch or breakfast programs, and how she is helping and that she helps others in the community, Betancourt said.

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, she said.

“But with such wonderful friends around her, like Elmo and Kimberly Paisley, they make you more comfortable,” she said.

Lily will also sing a song about hope and giving.

“The story is from a child’s point of view and from a family perspective,” Betancourt said. “We are always cognizant to address issues in a way that is helpful, but also developmentally appropriate for the children watching.”

The special will also air in Spanish on Oct. 22, at 1 p.m., on Univision, and Oct. 23 on Telefutura.