Many experts agree that ending the teen hunger crisis has to start with addressing its root cause: family poverty. At the government level, they say, officials must improve access to better-quality jobs for parents and increase SNAP benefits for families.
Another important part of the solution, experts say, is to encourage teens to accept help. Young people need to know that hunger-relief organizations are available across the country and that there’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of their offerings.
One way to encourage food-insecure teens to take part, says Popkin, is to combine charitable food programs with activities, such as basketball games or movie nights. That way, the focus is more on socializing and having fun—and less on the food.
School districts are also trying to address the teen hunger crisis. Some schools in western Ohio, for example, run a program in which volunteers discreetly place bags of food in students’ lockers every Friday so teens who would normally go hungry over the weekend can eat.
Other schools, including many in Michigan, California, and Texas, are taking a new approach to free school breakfast. They offer the morning meal to all students, regardless of economic status. Students can pick up their food—usually bagels or muffins, fruit, and juice—on their way to class and eat as a group while their teacher takes attendance.