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New Muppet speaks for hungry children

Lily will appear on a Sesame Street special about the growing number of families who aren't always sure where the next meal is coming from.

By Karen Datko Oct 5, 2011 10:35PM

You know that a problem has to be prevalent or profound if "Sesame Street" creates a new Muppet to put a face on it.


Lily, a 7-year-old girl from a poor family, will share her experience with what bureaucrats call "food insecurity" -- which means there's some doubt about when they'll have their next meal -- on a Muppets special about hungry children in America.  Post continues after video.

Lily, who's shockingly bright pink (or is it mauve?) and cute as a button, meets Bert, Elmo and other Sesame Street regulars (as well as Brad Paisley and Kimberly Williams Paisley) at a food drive, where Lily and her family are helping out. Only when prompted, she shares that her family sometimes has to rely on the food pantry -- hardly able to make eye contact with the others as she speaks.


Nearly one in four American children are now in the same leaky boat, and more than half of those kids are younger than 6, astounding numbers that are downright upsetting. "I've written before about the really awful rates of insured children in this country. That alone should weigh heavy on our national conscience. But childhood hunger is really desperately sad," E.D. Kain wrote in a column at Forbes.


The special, "Growing Hope Against Hunger," will be on PBS on Oct. 9 (check local listings for the time in your area). Says a PBS press release, "'Growing Hope Against Hunger' reassures children that they are not alone: There are people who care and can provide assistance."


The TV special will teach little kids about food banks and community gardens, and how hungry children cope (and hopefully will prompt adult viewers to volunteer regularly at their local food bank or soup kitchen, or donate money to their state food bank network or the national Feeding America).


Watching "Growing Hope Against Hunger" should be just the first step. Says The Salt, NPR's food blog:

No TV special can substitute for actually being there. And let's face it, kids are watching too much TV already, and it's hard to break through the noise. Anybody's who's serious about teaching their children about hunger should pack up some groceries and take them to a food drive or a soup kitchen.

Of course, even articles about a Muppets special offering hope and understanding to children could not escape negative comments online, along the lines of: For every hungry kid, there must be a parent who abuses substances or government assistant. Otherwise, the argument went, hunger in this country wouldn't exist.


At Jezebel, readers mostly gave Sesame Street a thumbs-up. "In a time when there's the very real possibility that a parent could be unemployed and food might be tough to come by, this is a good lesson for kids whose families are better off," a reader wrote. "Plus it gives those kids who identify with Lily a way to feel not so alone, I'd hope."


More on MSN Money:

Oct 6, 2011 9:23AM
We hand out too much already. subsidies for housing and utilities, EBT cards,schools feed for free, all the food banks, WIC etc... Govt needs to help create JOBS! What we need to hand out is birth control.
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