For a country that can produce 1.4 trillion dollars in less than 6 months to spend on “saving the economy” (see late 2007 under Bush and early 2008 under Obama) it is morally reprehensible that 19.5 million children are “food insecure” – that’s a government term. For the rest of us, it means, 1 out of 4 children under the age of 18 are hungry. (See FRAC)
And, these are the numbers that we can count through the school districts.
As a community activist, I began paying attention to the rising number of children being reported as HUNGRY during the Presidential campaign. Before the primary, the count was 12.1 million. During the campaign it was 12.8 million. After Obama was elected it rose to 13.3 million.
At this point I became appalled with disbelief. After the Obama Administration passed the Stimulus Plan, the number rose to 14.1 million, where it held steady until Spring 2009.
Prior to this (in 2008), I was working for the Anchorage Urban League as the Marketing Director for the Young Professional’s group. This led to my (almost) single-handedly conducting a letter campaign that increased the minimum wage statewide from $7.15 to $7.75. To get ONE letter I had to knock on 4 doors. Eventually, 5 State Senators wrote me a letter of thanks for submitting 251 letters. I did such a good job, of turning in letters weekly, the opposition thought it was the Unions, instead of one man. However, in 2009, the number of children reported as “food insecure” rose to 16.7 million by the end of the year.
That’s when I changed my focus.
I was not the only one. Anti-hunger advocates across the nation were up in arms. The Obama Administration made “ending child hunger by 2015″ the number one goal of the USDA, which started hosting “Ivory Tower-level” talks with Food Banks and anti-hunger experts like they had NEVER heard of child hunger.
This revelation gave me focus. In 2009, I was Food Bank of Alaska’s Food Stamp Outreach Coordinator. In one year I saw 3,662 people. My best quarter was 1,300. With my mind saturated with programs and numbers, I devised a way for America to actually meet the UN Millennial Goal of ending child hunger by 2015, even in the midst of a Recession.
After refining the plan with a few fellow graduates from Leadership Anchorage, I presented it on March 2, 2010 at the IGNITE Anchorage event. It was broadcast to 16 countries thanks to the internet. It got picked up by the Alaska Dispatch. Thanks to the audacity of that video, The Anchorage Press did a cover article on me.
Since that day, I have endeavored to make my word bond. I called a friend and together we have worked tirelessly to implement the plan in Alaska. So far, we have inspired Senate Bill 3 and House Bill 132 which adds 15 cents for breakfast and 35 cents for lunch from State coffers towards school districts. Both are on-track to pass this year. We have institutionalized Children’s Meal Mission and are in talks with the Boys and Girls Club of Alaska to go state-wide this summer.
So far, since 2010, the number has increased to 19.5 million. No one is quoting a greater number. Which means that the attention being placed on THE CAUSE OF THIS GENERATION is working.
Attention and Awareness are crucial. I desire to see the number being reported of children hungry to DECREASE. Towards this end, the By2015:AMERICA movement would like everyone to:
1) Take an END CHILD HUNGER picture with a cardboard sign and send it to email@example.com. Inspire FIVE family and friends to take a picture and send it in too.
2) Conduct a Peanut Butter Drive.
3) Donate your time and talents to the anti-hunger network in your local area.
Video of Kokayi’s 2010 IGNITE Anchorage presentation: