Understanding Childhood Hunger

Childhood Hunger is the Invisible Contagion in Our Community

Children who go without meals due to personal/family hardship are the most vulnerable and underserved of our community’s citizens. The reasons for hunger in a community that values its comparably attractive quality of life, are complex and challenging. The impact of poor childhood nutrition has an insidious effect on the overall health of a community, well out of proportion to the resources needed and available to prevent the problem.

In an area with wealth and abundant agricultural resources, no child living in our community need be hungry. Together we can end childhood hunger.


  • One out of ten Florida households struggle with hunger or food insecurity.

  • These families comprise 2 million Florida residents, including an approximate 650,000 children.

  • Research conducted by Harvard University concludes that students who eat breakfast are more alert, have improved memory and problem solving skills, and perform better on standardized tests.

  • Behavioral and emotional problems are more prevalent among children with hunger, including absenteeism, delinquency, substance abuse, and suicide rates.

  • The school lunch program in the state of Florida serves 1.3 million lunch meals each day to qualified at-risk students, but only 38 percent of these students who eat lunch also eat breakfast.

  • When school lets out, children from low-income families lose access to their free and reduced-price meals. Weekends, holidays, and vacation periods account for about 6 months out of every year in which these children are separated from these meal programs.

Childhood Poverty and Homelessness Exists in Every One of Our Communities

East central Florida has been declared as one of the best areas for children and their families to live, grow, recreate, and be educated. Yet the number of children living in single parent households below the poverty level here are steadily increasing, and a steadily increasing population of those children are homeless.


  • The percent of children living in single parent households is over 41% of total family households in Volusia/Flagler Counties, compared to 36% in the state of Florida. (These families are statistically more likely to be low-income.)

  • The population of homeless children under the age of 18 identified in Volusia/Flagler Counties school systems was 1,700 in 2006, a nearly 300% increase since 2004. (The following situations are which a child is considered homeless: sharing housing of others due to loss of housing and economic hardship, living in motels, hotels, FEMA trailers, campgrounds, transitional shelters, awaiting foster care placement, living in cars, parks, public places, bus or train stations or similar settings.)

  • Percent of total homeless population under the age of 18 was 16% in 2007, a 400% increase since 2004.

  • Percent of all ages living in poverty in Volusia/Flagler Counties is 11%.

  • Percent of children under 18 living in poverty is 17%.

Childhood poverty in Volusia/Flagler Counties exceed state and national averages. 

Affordable Housing Falls Short of Demand

Scenic views and beautiful winter weather seasons add to the high quality of life we enjoy in Volusia/Flagler Counties. But if families are part of the area’s moderate to low-income population, finding a home that they can afford can prove to be a challenge in order to raise children in a safe and secure environment.

Exceeding 30% of a household’s gross income on housing is considered to be “unaffordable” or housing cost burdened by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Many factors can affect affordability: household income, supply and demand in the housing market, regulatory barriers, etc. Unaffordable housing/rental cost impacts a family’s budget ability to provide sufficient food and other essentials to their children.


  • Volusia County ranks 45th in affordability and Flagler County ranks 44th in affordability of Florida’s 67 counties (1st being most affordable).

  • For renters only, 30% in Volusia and 25% in Flagler live in “unaffordable” housing.

  • In Volusia County, workers need to earn $14.04/hour to rent a modest two-bedroom apartment without being burdened by housing costs. The estimated average wage for a renter in Volusia County is $9.64/hr. This represents an average 45.6% deficit in wages to live in affordable rental housing.

  • In Flagler County, workers need to earn $14.79/hr. to rent a two bedroom apartment; the estimated wage for a renter is $10.67. This represents a 38.6% deficit in wages to live in affordable rental housing.

  • At a 2005 rate of 1.68 personal bankruptcy filings per 1,000 population, Volusia ranked 11th highest in Florida.

  • HUD housing report 2-year waiting lists in Volusia.

Youth Abuse Alcohol & Illicit Drugs

Called Florida’s greatest health challenge by leaders in the field, alarmingly high use of alcohol and illicit drugs threatens not only the health, but also the self-esteem, behavior and general well-being of future adults in the state.


  • Youth substance abuse, percent reported in past 30 days, is 38% of randomly selected middle and high school students in Volusia County, compared to an average of 35% in the State of Florida.

  • Youth substance abuse in Flagler County is reported at 40% of randomly selected students.

  • Youth substance abuse rates in Volusia & Flagler Counties exceed those of state and national averages. 

Juvenile Delinquency & Child Abuse Exceeds Statewide Average

It all starts at home, if there is a home. Successful transition from childhood to adulthood has its foundation in the home environment which includes the family culture, conduct, and behavioral expectations. ‘Growing up’ becomes a test of survival rather than an opportunity for development, when households are stretched to the breaking point due to hardship.


  • Child abuse rates per 1,000 population in Volusia County was 42 in 2005, compared to a statewide average of 29.

  • Total rate of youth referred for delinquency per 1,000 population was 74 in Volusia, compared to 50 statewide.

  • Delinquency rate in Flagler County was 60 in 2006.

School Absenteeism Exceeds Statewide Average

This indicator is important because when students miss a significant amount of school days, they are not learning. At risk students who qualify for school lunch programs may also not be eating adequate meals, if they miss school days.


  • 13% of students in Flagler County in 2005 were absent 21 days or more in middle school, compared to a statewide average of 11%.

  • 12% of students in Volusia County were absent 21 days or more.

Suicide Exceeds National Rate

This indicator reflects the mental state of the community. Someone thinking about suicide needs immediate intervention, and teens are at a particularly vulnerable age in regard to this issue.


  • Total annual rate of suicide deaths in Volusia County per 100,000 population in 2005 was 19, compared to a statewide average of 13.

  • The suicide rate in Flagler County for the same period was 15.

Building Successful Teamwork in Our Community

A truly successful community is one that nurtures the strengths of every family and every child, and acknowledges the value of our interconnectedness. Greater understanding of this important problem in our community can help us collectively learn, lead, and grow, together.

The Food Brings Hope Initiative offers one way in which a comprehensive team of professionals, leaders, donors, agencies, and volunteers has collaborated to coordinate existing resources for providing meals to at-risk children, while filling the gaps not previously addressed or understood.

Hosseini Family Foundation
100% of Food Brings Hope overhead is paid for by the Hosseini Family Foundation!
100% of donations to Food Brings Hope directly benefit students.

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