Childhood Hunger

Updated: Jun 7

The month of June is when children finish up the school year and when summer break begins. While this can be a period of freedom and fun for kids, it can also mean the end of regular meals. Children in food insecure homes may not be able to eat breakfast or lunch every day without school meals. That is why Second Harvest has a Summer Food Service Program which aims to provide children with free, healthy meals during the summer months when school is not in session and many children face lack of proper nutrition.


The program provides children aged 1-18 with five breakfast and lunch meals per week. The meals are be pre-packaged and distributed at sites in Clark, Champaign, and Logan Counties.


Childhood Hunger Facts and Statistics

The rate of child food insecurity in all three counties is 21.% or 11,020 children.


Broken down by county:

  • Clark: 22.7% (7,090 children)

  • Champaign: 18.9% (1,730 children)

  • Logan: 20.1% (2,200 children)

These percentages are significantly higher than the national average of childhood hunger, which is 14.28% -16.67%.


There are numerous negative outcomes, both physical and mental, for children who are raised in food insecure homes.

Health of food insecure children compared to food secure children

  • Rates of lifetime asthma: 19.1% higher

  • Rates of depressive symptoms: 27.9% higher

  • Rates of foregone medical care: 179.8% higher

  • Rates of emergency department use: 25.9% higher

  • “Food-insecure households have higher mean health care expenditures ($6072) than that of food-secure households ($4208), amounting to $77.5 billion a year.” (2017 numbers)

Health outcomes of food insecure children

  • Increased hospitalizations

  • Iron deficiency

  • Behavior problems like aggression, anxiety, and depression.

  • Higher risk of obesity

  • Poor academic performance

Increased risks of:

  • Some birth defects

  • Anemia

  • Lower nutrient intakes

  • Cognitive problems

  • Suicide ideation

  • Worse oral health


Childhood hunger is not only a problem in the summer but also throughout the entire school year. That is why Second Harvest also offers a BackPack Program that attempts to reduce child hunger, educate students and families on proper nutrition, and promote healthy lifestyles. It is designed to provide extra support on weekends for children who receive free or reduced-priced lunches at school. This program provides a backpack full of nutritious and easy-to-prepare foods for children to take home on the weekends when school meals are not available. For many of these children, this backpack is their only source of food when school is not in session.

Childhood hunger is a significant problem in American public schools. Hunger is associated with poor cognitive functioning, decreased school attendance and diminished academic achievement. Hungry children may have lower math scores, are more likely to repeat a grade and are more likely to come to school late or miss school. Eating breakfast at schools helps children perform better.

Childhood hunger can affect someone’s entire future by not even giving children the chance to do well in school. Ending childhood hunger is imperative for the success of the next generation.

What can you do to help?