October 7 2011

Sesame Street Tells a Fib . . . About Hunger

National Review -- The Home Front

Julie Gunlock

Sesame Street will unveil a new character named Lily on October 9, and she has a problem: She's hungry! As the Grio reports:

Sesame Street's new character Lily is a "food Insecure" puppet whose family struggles with hunger issues. The hot pink puppet with a purple nose and turquoise eyelids will make her debut in a PBS special called Growing Hope Against Hunger. The hour-long show will tackle the societal issue of hunger among low- and moderate-income families in the US. And with the USDA reporting that nearly one in four American families have limited access to affordable and nutritious food, the timing of the special is especially relevant.

Although Lily is just the latest politically charged plot to come out of Sesame Street, the problem with this storyline is that it is absolutely false. In fact, Lily's lucky to be "poor" in this country. Sesame Street would be wiser to educate America's children about the real poor and hungry - the 98 percent of the world population who live outside the United States.

The truth is, 94.3 percent of American households are able to put enough food on the table every day to feed their families. And despite the grim "facts" and figures thrown around by children's television programs, celebrity spokespersons, and the mainstream media, the vast majority of children living in America are healthy and well fed.

The facts about hunger in America really aren't that alarming - certainly not alarming enough to warrant a whole new Sesame Street character!

In fact, American kids have it pretty good. As I wrote on NRO back in January, the idiom "food insecure" - a term created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture - means one has either "reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet" or "disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake."

So, far from hungry or starving, Lily suffers from a much less dramatic condition - unpleasant to be sure, but at its core, just a somewhat boring, irregular, and occasionally reduced diet.

Of course, what will likely be absent from Sesame Street's lessons on "food insecurity" are the various federal, state, and local welfare programs for which Lily's parents qualify: food stamps, WIC, free school meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner!) as well as all the charitable services provided to families in need, such as food banks and church-run food assistance.

Of course, I don't really think my preschooler needs to learn about the welfare system in the U.S., but then, I also don't want them being told lies about hunger in America. He's already worried to death about the polar bears!

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