In the Land of Plenty, Young People Go Hungry

In the Land of Plenty, Young People Go Hungry

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New studies reveal that one in four California students lives in poverty and that an epidemic of hunger grips many counties where most students do not eat when they get home--even in the Central Valley where a large portion of the world's fruits and vegetables are produced. In this piece, youth writers from The kNOw talk about what it means to go hungry and the sacrifices they make so others can eat. The kNOw is a youth media organization in Fresno and a project of New America Media.

Feeding Others First
I remember one time when I came home from school and I was really sleepy. I wanted to take a nap but I was too hungry so I decided to make dinner. We didn’t have much--some milk, hamburger meat, Hamburger Helper, and noodles. So I made Hamburger Helper. I made everyone else’s food first to make sure everyone else was fed, and when it was time to make my plate, there was none left. But it didn’t really matter because I wasn’t hungry anymore.

I went to sleep, and when I woke up I was hungry. I was going to eat noodles but then I realized if I ate some then the kids wouldn’t have anything to eat for lunch the next day, so I left it alone. I really wasn’t trippin’ on the food because I could always go to school and eat, but then I thought about what was going to happen to my nieces and nephews and little brother when the house runs out of food for good.
-Meme, 16

Thankful For Food
Fortunately, I haven’t gone a day without food. My stomach only growls because I’ve gone a few hours without food, and I know I don’t have to worry about not having food. I am extremely thankful now that I’ve realized I always have a meal every night. Although I live in a borderline poverty household, I haven’t really thought of not having food.

I’ve always been selfish. I’ve always thought, “Why can’t we get organic food instead of processed food?” I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve overlooked the fact that people would volunteer to drink the Sunny D that I refuse to drink or the white bread I don’t like because it’s unhealthy.

This topic [hunger] really opened my eyes to appreciate that even though food is processed, I should still eat it because my mom got it, and I should be thankful that I actually have food to eat every single day.
-Gabby, 18

Can’t Depend On EBT
In my family, we have food to eat. We buy our food with our EBT card. Every month on the eighth, we receive money on the EBT card. That’s how we manage to survive on food for the month. I’m grateful for eating. I never waste my food. I know if I did, I would feel sad because I think of the homeless people.

For me, it’s sad to hear that there are more people out there going hungry. I can’t believe that our economy is so messed up. I’m really grateful, though, that my family has food for now. That means I’m going to work very hard to compete against other people who are looking for jobs. We can’t depend on the EBT card forever. I will work hard to get a higher education and to support my family. As the oldest son, that’s my responsibility.
-Luis, 17

Don’t Like To Think About It
From time to time, I go hungry. Lately, I’ve been relying on my boyfriend to give me money for food. I like to be independent, and it makes me ashamed of myself for not being able to get food for myself. I have to worry about taking care of my cell phone bill, or letting someone borrow money, toiletries, or whatever else. My mom has usually provided food, but she will stop doing so on my 21st birthday. Then I will have to be responsible for my own food.

Everyday, I go without eating in the morning just so I can have something when I get home. My mom has to take care of the rent, bills and her medicine, and whatever money she has left she uses for food. So most of the time, how much food we have in the house is up to her.

Food has always been an issue for me. Most of the time, it is a reward. Sometimes I just eat when there’s nothing else to do. I don’t like to think about it.
-Jaleesa, 20

Alone And Hungry
One time I was hungry was this moment when I was sleeping in an empty apartment. I didn’t have any money or resources to get food. I recall sitting in a room with a few candles for some light. I passed out until the next day. The next night, I pondered how I got to this point, and why I was here. Because of the absence of resources in my life, this was a dark and difficult moment. But I pulled through that night with a new motivation.
-Marcus, 20

Helpless
Going a day without eating is nearly impossible for me. My parents do whatever is necessary to insure that my siblings and I don’t go a day without eating. I am privileged to have never experienced days without eating, but when I look at the people who live this way, I can’t help but imagine what it would be like to live that way, not knowing if I will get a meal at dinner or not.

Just knowing that people live this way is sad. When it’s my own relatives, it’s different. My cousin and aunt live this way everyday. Most of the time they scrounge up whatever possible to get a meal. Knowing this makes me feel awful because I know I can help. But how can I help people that don’t want it? This frustrates me because I feel helpless.
-Gracie, 17

Getting By
I have been hungry most of my life, and it got worse when I moved in with my grandma. My grandma was getting money but it was only enough to pay the bills, and that leaves out food. Somehow we always found a way, but most times I was with friends eating at their house or something. It’s not like I liked it. My friends knew that I had no food, so they forced me to eat, and when I said, “no,” they got their mom on me. So I ate.

Most times my grandma thinks I don’t eat because I don’t like her food. Wrong! It’s because I want her to have the food. I’m a smart kid. I get food one way or another. I also don’t have a problem going days without eating. I remember one time I didn’t eat for about two weeks and at first it was okay. But then I got mad for little things. I had pains in my stomach. Just so many things but I was okay. I still have my ways of eating and getting by.
-"Omar," 19

Saving Food For Others
I hate wasting food. I usually eat every crumb on my plate or save it for later. There have been times in my life where I chose not to eat so that there would be more food for everyone else. I can’t take food from the mouths of children younger than me or my parents. When times are really hard for my family, sometimes my parents ask me to come eat with them and I reject their offer, hoping they will have enough to eat. When times are difficult, how can I be so selfish? I’m thankful that my family’s situation is not always bad. I’m thankful for my parents and older siblings for always finding ways to put food on the table.
-“Candace,” 18

Mom’s Chicken
I went hungry a while back. My mom was late with her paperwork, so our food stamps/EBT wasn’t going to work for about a month. With a huge family, food was going to go quick. All we had left was my mom’s chicken from the backyard. I didn’t want to eat it because I didn’t want to take up all the food. I remember just eating the soup with rice but not the actual chicken. I was hungry, but then again I still had something to eat.

Many people out there are starving. I went hungry but I never actually starved, luckily. With the economy in this shape, I sometimes wonder where my future meals will come from. Maybe just from school. I hope that one day everyone gets three healthy meals everyday.
-Angelina, 17