(YOU CAN’T TELL BY LOOKING.)
An estimated one of four California children goes to bed hungry every night because their families do not have enough money to buy food to last through the month, according to recent UCLA Health Policy Institute studies (1). A growing body of research about food insecurity (having too little food to prevent hunger) reinforces the need for better means of identifying and addressing the problem of childhood hunger (2,3,4,5,6) There are valid screening questionnaires, but they are useful only if used routinely by health professionals and others who work with children, so that families can be referred to food pantries, Cal Fresh, and other needed services.
Child health advocate pediatricians from the Northern California Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics are partnering with Ms. Karen Ande, an award-winning San Francisco documentary photographer, to increase awareness of the problem of hunger among children in our community. Ms. Ande is volunteering her services for the project, “Who’s Hungry?...You Can’t Tell by Looking.” Of the first 12 food security screening questionnaires given to parents by pediatric advocates, 6 were positive for food insecurity (Parents completing the questionnaires and consenting to having their child photographed by Ms. Ande were assured anonymity).
We invite you to study the photographs, made at street fairs and local neighborhoods in San Francisco, and to ask yourself which children appear hungry… You really can’t tell by looking! If you are a health care professional, the message is to routinely screen for food insecurity and to become familiar with resource networks and referral systems so no child will have to go to bed hungry.