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I was the approximate age demographic when Sesame Street debuted in 1969. But I wasn't the target audience. Sesame Street was created to assist children--particularly from low-income families--with basic letter recognition and other cognitive skills before they entered kindergarten. Over the intervening 40 plus years, Sesame Street has modified its initial mission statement to introduce the concepts of tolerance, social diversity, conflict resolution and handled some really big picture ideas like the death of a loved one, coming back after natural disasters, marriages, births, adoptions and even September 11th.
This year, the good people of the Sesame Workshop have decided that they need to address another issue affecting Americans: food insecurity.
The iconic kids show is set to unveil a new impoverished puppet named Lily, whose family faces an ongoing struggle with hunger issues. Lily will be revealed in a one-hour Sesame Street primetime special, Growing Hope Against Hunger, which is being sponsored by Walmart. The special will star country singer Brad Paisley and his wife Kimberly Williams Paisley, as well as the Sesame Street Muppets.
“Food insecurity is a growing and difficult issue for adults to discuss, much less children,” said the Paisleys in a statement. “We are honored that Sesame Street, with its long history of tackling difficult issues with sensitivity, caring and warmth asked us to be a part of this important project.” The special will share the stories of real-life families to raise awareness of hunger issues in the United States, as well as strategies that have helped these families find food. The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that 17 million American children — nearly 1 in 4 — have limited or uncertain access to affordable and nutritious food.
Let me repeat this: ONE IN FOUR CHILDREN are hungry. This is not some third-world, banana republic nation. This is not some resource- and agriculturally-poor country dependent upon foreign aid. This is the wealthiest nation in the world. This is unacceptable.
Poor nutrition has been linked to a vast array of health and cognitive issues, which can then be linked to a host of societal ills, the circle of poverty, neglect, crime and punishment continuing generation after generation.
The wealthiest country in the world.
If you want to help, FeedingAmerica.org has ideas on what you can do.