11/26/2013 05:21 pm ET Updated Jan 26, 2014

Make Hunger a Thing of the Past

During the holidays, when loved ones come together to celebrate and be thankful for one another, it is important to remember that millions of people across the United States are not as fortunate as many Americans. For most Thanksgiving is a time for feasting, but around 15 percent of American households do not even have the financial resources to feed themselves or their children on a regular basis. About 16 million children under 18 in the United States live in households where they are unable to consistently access enough nutritious food necessary for a healthy life.

Struggling with hunger on a daily basis can have a lasting impact on the lives of young children: It can stunt their physical development and limit their educational potential -- a hungry student is a student that lacks energy and focus.

Hunger is an issue that we need to tackle head on. That is why Sesame Workshop created Food for Thought, a community engagement initiative that helps families find ways to prepare healthy meals for them and their children on a budget. Created with the funding and partnership support of UnitedHealthcare and The Merck Company Foundation, this multimedia, bilingual (English/Spanish) initiative provides support and educational materials to families who struggle with limited access to nutritious foods.

Our strength as an organization is creating educational, impactful media, which is why Food for Thought comprises videos featuring a story for the family with the Sesame Street Muppets and real families as they try new foods, learn about the importance of healthy snacks, and discover how sharing a meal is a perfect opportunity to connect as a family. It also includes segments for parents and caregivers that address social and emotional issues related to food insecurity, as well as online resources that include strategies for stretching a tight food budget and family activities that help cultivate healthy eating habits in young children.

Hunger is a complex problem. Parents feel shame and anxiety when they struggle to put food on the table for their children. By utilizing the power of Cookie Monster, Elmo and all of our loveable characters, we believe we can make it easier for families to talk about the issue of hunger and feel confident implementing the simple, manageable strategies we suggest parents use to help their child get a healthy meal.In fact, findings from an evaluation of the Food for Thought materials indicated that they had a positive impact on participants' knowledge, behaviors and attitudes regarding how to cope with food insecurity and maintain healthy habits. Caregivers also reported having less difficulty coping with their food insecurity and communicating with children about food security worries.

While we are committed to doing everything in our power to help, we can only do so much. Across the country, food pantries and other local organizations that battle hunger need volunteers and donations. We encourage you to take a few moments of your time this holiday season and help all the organizations in this country that are trying to make hunger a thing of the past.

To learn more about Sesame Workshop's Food for Thought initiative, click here. If you or a family you know struggle with food insecurity, you can see our free resources here.