Alarming stats spark 'Child Hunger Awareness Week'

By Erika Mahoney

June 2, 2014 Updated Jun 2, 2014 at 7:05 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Did you know about 23 percent of Broome County children live in poverty, putting them at risk for hunger?

According to the New York State Anti-Hunger Taskforce, New York has alarming statistics when it comes to child hunger, but Broome County is even worse.

Nearly half of those who use SNAP are kids.

For the first year, Broome County officials deem this week "Child Hunger Awareness Week."

The week will feature events to raise awareness and encourage help, because hunger has a number of different consequences, among them, lower academic achievement.

"They can't concentrate," Kathy Sheehan, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction at Broome-Tioga BOCES. "I just think that when you imagine this, trying to participate in school and learning the new Common Core standards, and wondering where your next meal is coming from creates as barrier that no student should have to face."

The situation can grow worse during the summertime. Kids who qualify for free or reduced meals are guaranteed two meals at school' but that can disappear during school breaks.

"Only about 18 percent of the kids that receive meals in Broome County are involved in summer programs, so we are missing a lot of kids that do qualify for free or reduced meals," New York State Anti-Hunger Taskforce Member Ray Denniston said.

The goal of this week is to bring light to the issue and increase help. Click here for places that offer meals to children in need, or ways you can donate.

On June 4, CHOW will launch their food bus program. The money raised will help feed school children during the summers.

Denniston added that it's difficult to reach kids in need in rural areas since most of the places that offer help are located in urban areas.

To address that challenge, the Anti-Hunger Taskforce will partner with CHOW in the coming months to research ways to help.

On June 5, the week's outreach will end with the screening of "A Place at the Table" at Binghamton High School at 6 p.m. The documentary focuses on child hunger and there will be a community discussion with a panel following the presentation.

Throughout the week, community members can participate in the "Paper Plate Campaign." The campaign asks people to write down on a paper plate their response to "Hunger Is..."

The plan is to display the answers at Binghamton City Hall during First Friday on June 6.