Sunday evening, October 9th, PBS premiered a one-hour Sesame Workshop production for both children and adults that explores issues of poverty, hunger and nutrition in America. “Growing Hope Against Hunger” introduces a new Muppet character, 7-year-old Lily, who asks, “Why don’t people have enough food?” and shares her and her family’s experience of food insecurity, and turning to food pantries to “fill in when food is low.”
In signature Sesame Street style, human characters and celebrities interact with Muppets in settings that include a food drive and community garden, while highlighting several strategies of empowerment told through the eyes of children. The special also incorporates cartoons to illustrate the increasing numbers of people facing hunger during the recession, and songs that encourage everyone – especially children – to help by volunteering or donating or just being a supportive friend.
Documentary profiles of actual children and their parents at risk of hunger are also part of the program, including a Martha’s Vineyard family that uses Serving Hands Food Distribution in Vineyard Haven, a GBFB member agency. Sesame Street executives visited GBFB in May of 2010 and met with Catherine D’Amato, President and CEO. We designed a “learning tour” taking them to our partner agencies: Boston Medical Center Food Pantry, Women’s Lunch Place, and The Franciscan Food Center at St. Anthony’s Shrine. The last stop was our Kids Cafe Program at the Roxbury Boys & Girls Club, where they observed dinner being served and interviewed some of the children and staff.
“Hunger isn’t an easy subject to talk about at any age, but this Sesame Street program helps kids understand that people struggling with food insecurity are just like them,” noted D’Amato. “With an estimated 260,000 children in eastern Massachusetts facing hunger on a regular basis, raising children’s awareness and fostering their understanding and the idea of giving back are critical. Through Muppets like Lily, Sesame Street is helping to broaden our audience of future advocates and supporters.”