Chelsea Wells, a student in Jon Pfeiffer’s Spring 2016 Mass Communication Law class at Pepperdine University, wrote the following essay in response to the prompt: “Journalists in the United States can publish stories on nearly anything that warrants coverage and this gives readers the opportunity to find information on any topic from every angle. However, sometimes the most important issues are overshadowed by less important information (think trending cat videos on YouTube). What is one topic that the media should give more emphasis?”
I was eight years old when I first saw the photo of Jacob—a young boy staring up at me from the magazine cover with big, blue eyes, tousled blonde hair, and a dream of becoming a fireman when he grew up. There seemed, to my young eyes, no difference between us, except for the fact that his magazine was one that had been put in our mailbox as a campaign against childhood hunger in America. And I have no doubt that, even in our charitable home, Jacob ended up in the next morning’s trash bin.
Childhood hunger in America is a topic that seems to only be addressed through large charity organizations and campaigns. It is not commonly seen as the headline on newsstands or the center of a televised debate or a viral video that shows up in the recommended videos list when you have clicked on one too many YouTube videos. When childhood hunger is addressed, it is focused on the children of Africa, Mexico, Costa Rica, Haiti—anywhere but the United States. This in no way discredits the importance of feeding children in other countries; every child deserves enough food to survive. It does, however, call into question America’s priorities. How can we take care of the world when we are not even feeding our own rising generations? We neglect our own. According to the USDA, there are 15.3 million children under the age of 18 in the United States that suffer from insufficient food and nutrition. This is almost consistently accompanied with poor development, illness, and poverty—which, quite obviously, do not pair well. It causes an avalanche that continues to impact America as these children grow up, become the impactful, decision-making generation, and oftentimes raise their own families in hunger and poverty, ultimately increasing the level of deficiency in the U.S.
The word “charity” separates an event from the rest. For example, buying cookies in your local grocery store versus purchasing the same box of cookies for charity. There is a distinctly different connotation. American childhood hunger is often categorized in this group—as a charitable action, as though it is an act of choice versus a personal duty. Media outlets do occasionally feature organizations such as Feeding America or No Kid Hungry, and reporters, talk show hosts, and celebrities pride themselves in participatory events. But even then, childhood hunger is rarely recognized. It is overshadowed by the lastest Kardashian scandal, viral kitten that is adorable beyond measure, or Donald Trump’s most recent act of ignorance. Without active change and recognition, childhood hunger will remain a silent, devastating disease that will continue to spread across the American people.
Chelsea is a senior at Pepperdine University majoring in Advertising and Multimedia Design.
Jon Pfeiffer is an experienced entertainment and copyright trial attorney practicing in Santa Monica. Jon is also an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California where he teaches Media Law. COM 570 covers First Amendment issues as well as copyright, defamation and privacy.