How many of us can imagine what hunger really means? Is it the pang in your stomach at 11:45 a.m. when your morning meetings wrap up, or the scent filling up the room from your officemate’s reheated leftovers from last night?
Real hunger is a global phenomenon that many people will be lucky to never truly understand. But it’s closer to all of us than we think. Across the country and around the world, hundreds of millions of people are facing hunger and struggling to get enough to eat, with potential long-term, life-changing detrimental consequences.
In the U.S., summer hunger lurks as a shadow ordeal for millions of children. During the school year, 22 million children receive free or reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program. Someone must take over when schools close during the summer, no?
The result: Millions of children lose access to these crucial meals during their “summer vacation.” In fact, less than four million of the 22 million total will receive free or reduced-price meals through the USDA Summer Food Service Program. That means more than 18 million children and their siblings face the stark reality of food insecurity— the lack of access to enough nutritious food—intensified in the heat of summer. It’s a problem that gets little notice by those of us lucky enough to always know when and where our next meal will come from.
Food insecurity takes a long-term toll and can effect children’s emotional, physical and social development. Over time, children living in food insecure homes may be at increased risk for chronic health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, iron deficiency, anemia, asthma and heart disease. They face additional challenges, as the school year begins, having lost gained educational ground to the stress and anxiety from months of struggling with hunger.
Thankfully, there are organizations dedicated to fighting hunger—including summer hunger—that work day in and day out to get children the food they need. On May 20, Morgan Stanley celebrated its 10-year anniversary partnering with Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. Feeding America’s food bank network served nearly 24 million meals through summer programs that ran June through August of 2018, including 10 million meals via 5,903 Summer Food Service Program meal sites. Having access to nutritious meals is the most basic, but arguably most important, building block for a child.
With our global partners, Morgan Stanley is committed to fighting hunger and raising awareness, urging not only employees, but anyone within reach to join the fight. For the third year in a row, we successfully ran our “Feeding Kids Around the Clock” initiative, which consists of 24 hours of volunteering around the world to help in the fight against childhood hunger. Employees worldwide joined forces to battle summer hunger and raise awareness—and to witness the impact that a single day of service can have on an organization, a community, and a child’s life. This year alone, the 24-hour effort amounted to over 2.1 million meals for children and families around the world facing hunger this summer. And that impact starts on one day.
While many people see an issue like food insecurity as overwhelming, I believe no problem is too big to address and no effort too small to make a difference. Whether you are volunteering your time by packing meals and handing out flyers or raising awareness on social media through hashtags like #FightHunger, you are helping us fight the good fight against hunger. Please join us in battling summer hunger, and every effort, no matter the size, can make a difference in a hungry child’s life.
Tom Nides is a Managing Director and Vice Chairman of Morgan Stanley, focusing on the Firm's global clients and other key constituencies around the world. He serves as a member of the Firm's Management Committee and Operating Committee.