By Kate Atwood

This month I am going to take a break from profiles and write instead about a pressing problem in our community and our nation. With Thanksgiving around the corner, it seems fitting to talk about childhood hunger in America.

I was recently introduced to this problem in my new role as the executive director of the Arby’s Foundation, the charitable arm of the Arby’s Restaurant Group. This fall we launched a new mission to help end childhood hunger in America because every child deserves to learn, play and grow. I’ve learned quickly just how much a child’s access to wholesome meals every day affects their ability to learn and grow.

Did you know that more than 16 million children in America struggle with hunger?  That equates to 1 in 5 children in the U.S. who do not get the proper meals they need. There are approximately 700,000 such children in Georgia. The latest USDA reports show that this number is at an all-time high in our nation’s history.

Here are three key things to know about childhood hunger in America:

  • A hungry child in America doesn’t know where his or her next meal will come from, some going days without proper nutrition.
  • Childhood hunger in America doesn’t exist because of a lack of food. The problem exists for such reasons as education, outreach and access to programs that are there to help.
  • The impact of hunger is universal in a child’s life. It affects everything from their ability to concentrate to their ability to get proper sleep. A hungry child frequently gets sick and falls behind academically and socially.

The good news is that this problem is solvable and that you can be a big part of the solution. A leading organization in the fight to end childhood hunger in America is Share our Strength. This November marks the one-year anniversary of their No Kid Hungry Campaign. To honor this milestone, here are a few fun and easy ways you can support No Kid Hungry and join the fight to end this pressing problem in our nation:

1.)  Sign the No Kid Hungry Pledge: Visit strength.org and take the pledge to end childhood hunger.  This is a simple and free way to add your voice to support this movement in America.  You can help Share Our Strength reach their goal of 100,000 pledges by the end of 2011.

2.)  Hold a Great American Bake Sale at your office or holiday party: Who isn’t baking over the holidays? Plan a bake sale and help raise funds while building awareness about an issue that is often ignored: childhood hunger in our own backyard.  To learn more and register your bake sale, click on the Great American Bake Sale tab at strength.org.

3.)  Visit an Arby’s Restaurant near you: Shameless plug, but by visiting an Arby’s during the month of November, you and your family can make a $1 donation that all goes to support the No Kid Hungry Campaign. As part of Arby’s commitment to the Arby’s Foundation mission, and to the families we serve, we now offer healthier choices on our Kids Meal menu, so you can also talk about healthy choices with your kids while sharing about No Kid Hungry.

November is not only the one-year anniversary of the No Kid Hungry Campaign it is also the month that kicks-off the holiday season. Everyone deserves to experience joy around this time. Remember that some families need our help to do so. Be sure to give thanks this month by giving back to our community.

To learn more about the Arby’s Foundation, visit arbys.com/Foundation. For more about Kate Atwood, visit LivingByGiving.com.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.