11/26/2014 11:24 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Kids Struggling With Hunger Share What They Are Most Thankful For This Holiday Season

Hunger is on the rise in America where millions of children face impossible struggles that belie their years.

According to Feeding America, the U.S.’s largest domestic hunger-relief charity, 15.8 million children reside in food insecure homes.

Living without proper nutrition means these underserved kids are at a higher risk for obesity, impeded brain and physical development and falling behind in school.

Yet, despite these overwhelming conditions, many of these children are able to face their challenges head on and appreciate the support they get that helps their families get by.

Let’s all try and take a page out of these children’s coloring books this holiday season and be thankful for what we have.

Showing Thanks For A Favorite Fruit

Struggling families typically can’t afford the luxury of buying healthy food because it’s so expensive. Of those queried in a recent Feeding America study, 79 percent said they have no choice but to go for cheap fast food over the more nutritionally-dense options.

Showing Thanks For Weekend Lunches Away From A School Plan

More than 21 million children qualify for free or reduced-price meals at school, which means that they’re satiated during the weekdays, but they may go hungry once they get home. To make sure that kids have enough to eat over the weekend, Feeding America’s BackPack program distributes bags filled with nutritious and easy-to-assemble food items to 450,000 children at then end of every week.

Showing Thanks For Providing The Basics

Families who are food insecure are often forced to make tough decisions, such as sacrificing some of their household’s other basic needs -- including medical visits and heat –- so that their kids will have enough to eat.

Showing Thanks For Fresh Produce

While it may seem counterintuitive, areas with high instances of hunger actually also have high rates of obesity because of the costs associated with purchasing healthy foods. Mississippians, for example, struggled the most to afford food last year and also had the highest obesity rate in the country, according to Gallup.

Showing Thanks For All They Receive

In a survey conducted by No Kid Hungry last year, 73 percent of teachers said they regularly see students come to school hungry because they don’t have enough food at home. Teachers also said they spend an average of $37 a month of their own money to give food to students in need.

Showing Thanks For Holiday Giving

On average, Americans waste about $371 in food per year, according to the USDA. To make sure no perfectly good food gets discarded, consider donating some leftover items to a food bank, but try to hand over the healthy items they need, including whole grains and low sodium soups.

Photos provided by Feeding America. See how you can help kids struggling with hunger here.

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